Nearly half of Thai nurses suffer from high levels of work-related stress because of shifts that last more than 12 hours a day, a nationwide survey has found.
The survey also indicated that 48.3 per cent of nurses suffer from joint or muscular problems.
Conducted between 2012 and 2014 as part of the Thai Nurse Cohort Study (TNCs) project, the survey covered 18,765 nurses across the country.
"Of the respondents, 45.5 per cent said they had high levels of stress," TNCs chief Krisada Sawaengdee told a press conference yesterday.
Stress was found to be contributing to restless nights for a third of the respondents, while 8-10 per cent of them said they had to resort to sleeping pills.
"This in turn affects the delivery of their service to patients, and is also linked to work-related accidents and injuries," Krisada said.
The survey found that many young nurses got injured by syringe needles or knives, which raised their risk of contracting serious diseases from patients. In some cases, they need to take anti-retroviral drugs or tuberculosis pills as a result.
The proportion of those planning to quit their jobs is higher among the nurses who have suffered serious accidents at work.
Apart from physical risks and injuries, the survey found that a significant number of nurses were affected mentally. As many as 38.3 per cent of the respondents said they were struggling with anxiety and depression issues.
The TNCs found that under such work conditions, nurses' quality of life stood at just 0.75 out of possible 1 point - as opposed to 0.95 point among women in other professions such as teachers. This was derived from a comparable World Health Organisation index.
When divided by age, the younger group was found by the survey to have an even lower quality of life.
Of the nurses surveyed, 40 per cent were between 25 and 45 years old, some 45 per cent were over 45, while the rest were younger than 25.
Krisada said the TNCs would like to propose that nurses be kept informed of possible health threats at their workplaces, that work conditions for them be improved and that constant evaluation of the improvement be implemented.
"Better conditions may come in the form of an adequate workforce and proper protective gear," she said.
Associate Professor Jintana Yunibhand, president of the Nurses Association of Thailand, said her agency would do what it could to ensure the implementation of these proposals.
"We will also listen to the opinions of nurses across the country via a national seminar that will be held in November," she said.