Medacs Healthcare

JUL 31/2015

12-hour shifts for nurses 'could impact patient care'

Longer shifts for nurses could have a negative impact on patient care, according to a new review from the chief nursing officer (CNO) for England.

Nursing Times reports that the research confirms that there has been a rise in the popularity of 12-hour shifts - possibly due to shortages in staff - that are leaving nurses feeling more tired compared to eight hours.  

The study investigated prevalence of these shifts and how they can impact patient care. The focus was predominantly on nurses, but the researchers were confident that the results could also be applied to healthcare support workers.

It found that 31 per cent of staff nurses in hospitals reported working 12-hour shifts in 2005 compared to more than half (52 per cent) in 2009. In care homes, the figure rose from 41 per cent to 69 per cent. 

The study connected the rise in popularity for these longer shifts to fatigues, stress, patient safety and a drop in performance.   

Researchers noted a move away from traditional patterns of work over the last two decades with many hospitals supporting 12-hour shifts as they believe it is a cost-effective way of providing around the clock care. 

Nurses were also found to prefer working longer hours over fewer shifts, as they claim it gives them greater levels of flexibility and more days at home with their families and friends. 

The report - entitled '12-hour shifts: Prevalence, Views and Impact' - was commissioned in 2013 by the CNO as part of a wider project outlined out in the national nursing strategy 'Compassion in Practice'.

More than 26 studies from 1982 and 2014 were reviewed from the UK, US and Europe. The researchers warned that the evidence demonstrated that the impact of different shift lengths ranged from weak to moderate.

Overall, the different reviews appeared to "show some degree of negativity" was attached to 12-hour shifts, for both nurses and patients. 

Professor Jill Maben, chair of nursing research King’s College, said: “Our work shows that in spite of limited evidence, 12-hour shifts have increased across the NHS without fully understanding the risks to patient safety and staff wellbeing.”

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