A pilot study exploring rehabilitation nurses' perceptions of 12-hour shifts

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Background. Understanding nurses' perceptions of shifts, especially 12-hour shifts, can help facilities to retain their nurses. Literature review. Limited studies of nurses' perceptions of the 12-hour shift have produced varying conclusions about what nurses perceive as its benefits. Purpose. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of rehabilitation nurses who are working in or who have worked 12-hour shifts in an acute rehabilitation hospital and to identify the advantages and disadvantages of 12-hour shifts. Setting. The study was conducted at a suburban acute rehabilitation hospital that uses a team model of nursing care. Methods. This descriptive mixed-method study design used both quantitative and qualitative methods. The questionnaire took participants about 30 minutes to complete. Instrument. The instrument for this study consisted of a research questionnaire and a demographic survey. Sample. Convenience sampling was used to recruit the participants. Inclusion criteria included nurses who were employed at the rehabilitation hospital and are currently working 12-hour shifts, or have worked 12-hour shifts in a rehabilitation setting during their past 10 years of employment. Results. Family life, communication with nurses, patient care, continuity of care, time off, and job satisfaction received the highest scores in the survey, indicating that 12-hour shifts allowed greater satisfaction in these areas. Disadvantages were greater fatigue and lack of continuity of care when patient assignments changed during the shift. Discussion. Key findings warranting further discussion included communication between nurses, physicians, and the interdisciplinary team; increased fatigue; and nursing assignment changes in the middle of a shift. Limitations. The small sample size, the study being conducted in only one facility, day and night shifts not being compared, and the question about fatigue/freshness, which are opposite concepts, were the limitations. Conclusion. Working 12-hour shifts may have a positive effect on job satisfaction and allow rehabilitation nurses to have more flexibility to further their education. Facilities should avoid changing patient assignments in the middle of a shift and avoid scheduling nurses for shifts longer than 12 hours to lessen fatigue.
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