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Publication Date



2021 prov rn tx; 2021 prov rn poster; texas; covenant; lubbock




Background: Nurses report high levels of burnout and stress while working in the acute care setting, especially during the current COVID-19 outbreak. Evidence suggests that taking a restorative break during an extended, 12-hour shift may help mitigate stress and translate to better patient and caregiver outcomes. Yet, little is known about how Registered Nurses report taking breaks in the context of the pandemic.

Purpose/Aims: The purpose of this project was to describe the frequency of breaks reported by nurses working 12-hour shifts during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to test for demographic differences between nurses reporting fewer compared to more breaks on average during a shift.

Methods/Approach: Registered Nurses delivering direct patient care in a 12-hour full-time position in the hospital setting in two different regions in the United States (U.S.) were recruited for two different studies during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak. Demographic data were collected via self-report in both studies. To measure quantity of breaks taken during a shift, participants in the Southern U.S. region were asked, “What is the frequency of breaks you normally take during your shift between 0 (no breaks) to 4 (all provided breaks)?”. Nurse participants in the Pacific Coast study were asked, “In a typical shift, how many 15- minute breaks do you take?” and “In a typical shift, how many 30-minute breaks do you take?”. The numbers of breaks reported were summed to yield a total frequency of breaks taken by the participants in both studies. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics to quantify the number of breaks reported, and bivariate tests assessed group differences between reporting high or low frequency of breaks.

Results: A total of 121 nurses working either in the Pacific Coast (n=31) or in the southern U.S. (n=90), were included. Across the dataset, the average number of breaks reported was 1.5 and nurses surveyed in the Southern U.S. were significantly more likely to report taking one or fewer breaks during their 12-hour shift compared to nurses working in states along the Pacific coast. There were no noted differences in education, age, gender, or shift type with respect to reported break frequency.

Conclusion This project provides an initial glimpse into self-reported breaks of nurses delivering frontline care in the hospital setting during the COVID pandemic. Nurses may not be taking all break opportunities while working during the pandemic, and efforts should be made to support the ability of frontline caregivers to consistently take all restorative breaks each shift.

Implications for Practice: Strategies for enhancing nurses’ abilities to take restorative breaks are critical, especially for nurses working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring adequate quality and quantity of breaks for frontline caregivers may mitigate caregiver burnout and enhance well-being, potentially translating to delivery of optimal patient outcomes. Our findings are limited as strategies for measuring nursing breaks were not uniform across the two studies. Future work is needed to further characterize breaks and related outcomes among Registered Nurses providing direct patient care during COVID.



Conference / Event Name

2021 Providence RN Conference


Virtual Conference

Break habits of Registered Nurses working in the acute care setting during the COVID-19 pandemic

Included in

Nursing Commons