Shift patterns are leading to burnout claims nurse

The NHS Tayside nurse said eight-hour shifts can be worked for up to 10 days in a row and nursing staff are quitting as a result.

A nurse has reignited the debate on the impact of shift patterns amid claims ‘ancient’ eight-hour working days are leading to burnout and resignations among colleagues.

'Ancient' eight-hour patterns are contributing to burnout and resignations for nurses working in NHS Tayside in Scotland, according to a whistleblower. Photo: iStock

The anonymous nurse, who works for NHS Tayside in Scotland, said colleagues were quitting to work in nearby Fife and Aberdeen because of shift patterns.

They added that eight-hour shift patterns lead to healthcare professionals finishing work at 9pm and starting again at 7am, meaning they get around six hours sleep.

‘Awful shift patterns’

‘Every nurse, healthcare assistant and nursing assistant I discuss this issue with has the same opinion — burnout,’ the nurse told the Courier newspaper.

‘Working eight to 10 stretches of eight hours makes people sick.

‘Working four days 12 hours is manageable, so why does NHS Tayside not offer flexible working times?

‘Many staff are leaving to work in Aberdeen or Kirkcaldy or agency rather than work these awful shift patterns and I for one might be one of them soon.’

The nurse also alleged that NHS Tayside does not offer flexible 12-hour shift patterns.

The health board has denied this, saying 12-hour shifts are available to nursing staff in certain clinical areas.

Nine of the 14 Scottish health boards, including NHS Tayside, which responded to enquiries from Nursing Standard, said they offer 12-hour shifts to their nurses.

Raised concerns

Unison Scotland head of health Matt McLaughlin said he has not seen evidence of staff leaving Tayside because of shift patterns.

But some older Unison members in Scotland have raised concerns about being tired at the end of 12-hour shifts, according to Mr McLaughlin.

A 2015 study, which looked at data from the RN4Cast survey of 31,627 nurses across 12 European countries, found shifts of 12 hours or more can lead to emotional exhaustion and job dissatisfaction.

But a National Nursing Research Unit study found those working 12-hour shifts report that they are equally or more satisfied with their working hours than nurses working shorter shifts.

A NHS Tayside spokesperson said it has a roster policy, developed with staff representatives, which balances effective provision of services with allowing workers an appropriate work-life balance.

‘We would encourage any member of nursing staff to raise any concerns they may have regarding their working pattern with their line manager,’ the spokesperson added.

Further information

12‐hour shifts: Prevalence, Views and Impact