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A study examining the impact of 12-hour shifts on critical care staff

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richardson a., turnock c., harris l., finley a. & carson s.(2007) Journal of Nursing Management15, 838–846



A study examining the impact of 12-hour shifts on critical care staff Background 

Twelve-hour shifts contribute to flexible patterns of work, but the effects on delivery of direct care and staff fatigue are important topics for deeper examination. Aims 

To examine the impact and implications of 12-hour shifts on critical care staff. Methods 

A staged dual approach using two focus groups (n = 16) and questionnaires (n = 147) with critical care staff from three critical care units. Results 

Positive effects were found with planning and prioritizing care, improved relationships with patients/relatives, good-quality time off work and ease of travelling to work. Less favourable effects were with caring for patients in isolation cubicles and the impact on staff motivation and tiredness. Acceptable patterns of work were suggested for ‘numbers of consecutive shifts’ and ‘rest periods between shifts’. Conclusions 

Most participants believed 12-hour shifts should continue. The challenge is to ensure existing systems and practices develop to improve on the less positive effects of working 12-hour shifts. Implications for nursing management 

This study provides nurse managers with important and relevant staff views on the impact of working 12-hour shifts. In particular to those working within a critical care environment and suggests the challenge is to ensure existing systems and practices develop to improve on the less encouraging effects of working 12-hour shifts. It adds an understanding of the senior nurse's view on the positive and negative effects of managing and organizing staff off duty to safely run a department with 12-hour shifts.
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Keywords: 12-hour shifts; critical care; patterns of work

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Nurse Consultant – Critical Care, The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust 2: Principal Lecturer, Northumbria University 3: Critical Care Sister, Royal Victoria Infirmary 4: Critical Care Sister, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Publication date: 01 November 2007

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