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Survey: Growth in popularity of longer shifts may have stalled

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Most nurses continue to work an eight hour shift, despite the growing popularity of extended working periods in recent years, our annual survey suggests.

Of the nearly 750 respondents to our survey, 51% said they always worked an eight hour shift, compared with around 22% who always worked a 12 hour shift.

A further 16% said they worked mostly eight hour shifts, with occasional 12 hour shifts thrown in. The opposite was true for 7% who usually worked 12 hours, but with occasional eight hour shifts. The remaining 4% worked a roughly equal number of both lengths of shift.

The findings suggest a slight – if unexpected – rebalance in favour of eight hours shifts, compared to last year.

Last year, 45% said they always worked an eight hour shift, compared with around 27% who always worked a 12 hour shift. The results for those who worked a mixture were almost identical to this year.

Previous research by Nursing Times has suggested more nurses prefer to work the longer shifts – mostly because it gives them more days off – but accept they could be worse for patient care due to increased fatigue.

A Nursing Times survey from July 2012 found 46% of respondents favoured a 12 hour shift, while 43% preferred eight hours.

The impact of 12 hour shifts on patients and staff was due to be reviewed by NHS England, as part of implementation plans for the chief nursing officer for England’s national nursing strategy.

A large US study, published in autumn 2012 in the journal Health Affairs, concluded that nurses working 12 hour shifts were more likely to experience burnout, job dissatisfaction, and complaints from patients dissatisfied with their care. But, despite this, they continue to remain popular.


Which length of shift do you normally work? 
Always 8 hour shifts51.44%
Always 12 hour shifts21.66%
Mostly 8 hour shifts, with occasional 12 hour shifts16.07%
Mostly 12 hour shifts, with occasional 8 hour shifts7.11%
A roughly equal number of both 8 and 12 hour shifts3.72%
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Readers' comments (1)

  • This survey of course assumed that nurses have a choice what type of shifts they work, but of course that is not true. Many have to work twelve hour shifts because there is no other way the wards could possibly be covered adequately, and for that reason eight hour shifts are not available to them.

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