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Profession divided over long shift benefits


Frontline nurses are divided over whether long or short shifts are better for patients and staff.

Writing in Nursing Times last week, National Nursing Research Unit deputy director Jill Maben said 12 hour day shifts – increasingly replacing two overlapping shorter shifts – meant staff became more tired and less able to give “unwearied, dignified and compassionate care” (19 January, p25).

More than a 100 nurses have commented on Dr Maben’s views over the last seven days via   

One nurse said: “Employers are deluding themselves if they think long shifts, without crossover time, are an effective use of resources. Poor patient care and lack of learning opportunities leads to increased morbidity and mortality.”

But others argued long shifts were better for staff because they meant three-day weeks.

“It’s not the 12 hour shifts that cause staff to have stress and burn out – it’s the short shifts when you have to do seven or eight in a row before your days off,” said one.

Another said: “Leave 12 hour shifts alone! If I had to go back to the insufferable days of five shorter shifts a week I would be out of nursing like you wouldn’t believe.”


Readers' comments (10)

  • I work in an ED and I currently work 12 hour shifts and love them. I would hate to have to go back to 8 hours. Our new NUM has decided he doesn't like 12 hour shifts so he is trying to get rid of them. Most of our problems with the 12 hour shifts come back to poor rostering. We now have the union involved to ensure that our 12 hour shifts remain. For many staff removing the 12 hour shifts would greatly impact on their work/family life. Many people have to work the 12 hour shifts due to childcare costs. Although long shifts may not suit everybody I don't believe that removing them is the answer. Nurses need to take responsibility for their own practice and if they are tired or making mistake s then 12 hour shifts may not be for them. For me they are the only option otherwise I would be looking for a new career!!!

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  • Waht is most important of all is having break morning, lunch, afternoon and evening. Long Days are equally exhausting as short days as at my work place the person doing the off duty thinks it is fine to work 8, 9 or 10 short day stretch or often give people one day off after night and make them work days shift within 24 hours after finising their night shift (i.e. when the staff is still is "dormant mode").

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  • That can't be legal? Get rid of him/her!!

    I do long days with 2 half-hour breaks, one 'paid for' and one not, so the shift is actually 12.5 hours. I don't feel tired, but boy was I tired when I was coming in to work every day!

    Managers really do need to be flexible.

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  • when I started my career we did traditional shifts, more often than not we skipped breaks and left work late to catch up on our workload.. Since commencing 12 hour shifts Ive found I can spread my workload over the course of the day and have found there to be better continuity of care. I find it ironic that the majority of people wanting to return to traditional shifts are seldom involved with providing patient care.

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  • In my opioion 12hours shift are too much for nurses and could have impact on the way nurses relate to patient and other members of staff especially after two or three long days on a roll, Nurses would give more app care as long as documentation give enough info for continunity of quality of care at the end of the day nurses are human being too.

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  • I was reading on an American nurses web page where the management did some extensive research on the impact of the 12 hour shifts on the care of patients in ICU. They found that it did impact on care. They re-introduced the shorter shifts. All the staff felt they needed to put patient safety first in the end. Perhaps we should consider some up to date research to see if there are genuine reasons for maintaining 12 hour shifts and if there are any proven risks to patients.

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  • laura collins

    12 hour shift to us nurses have big impact to our performance specially to our health. Maybe we can have shorter shift for us to provide sufficient care for our patients.

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  • Very encouraged that JM advocates supportive and healthy workplaces. Her heart would ache for the nurses who contact CAUSE through, devastated at their suspension based on false allegations or systems failures, the time being taken to investigate, exclusion from all contact with colleagues/friends, with union officer slow to respond, and not proactive challenging managers’ failure to follow the English chief nurse’s Principles to be followed, let alone their own disciplinary policies.
    Dept of Health refuses to find out the size of this problem, known from previous research to be serious. Careers are destroyed and critics are silenced when they see what happens to outspoken staff.
    Unbelievable what is happening. We so hope the National Nursing Research Unit can do something to improve this dire situation.
    Julie Fagan, founder member CAUSE (Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspensions and Exclusions UK)

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  • 12 hour shift with only 1 hour break is VERY wrong and Concerning. I wonder how many staff feel forced to abide by this work pattern?? What are the unions doing to promote better breaks and a flexibility? - other places can do shorter hours why not NHS,

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  • Work 12 hours and go home on time work 7.30 and end up doing up to 2 hours overtime each shift no contest. Staff generally LIKE long hours as it results in extra days off and the ability to manage their work / social balance. Dont decide whats best for staff especially as every nurse manager in the book is happy for a nurse to cover a double shift if it covers an emergency sickness situation.

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