Experiences of Nurses Working Night Shift in Regional Australian Hospitals: A Qualitative Case Study

Friday, 25 July 2014

Idona N. Powell, RN, RM, MHlthSc (Man), PGDipClinN (Psychiatry)
Nursing Administration, Grafton Base Hospital, Grafton, Australia

Purpose: The study aimed to explore experiences of nightshift nurses working in Australian regional hospitals focusing on their relationships with other nightshift nurses, non-nightshift staff and general work satisfaction issues. Study intention was to act as a catalyst to the development and implementation of strategies to create positive change for the nightshift nurses.

Methods: The study was conducted at three Australian regional hospitals. Data were derived from semi-structured interviews and participant diaries over a six month period in 2010. The participants were 14 nurses working nights half or more of their total shifts in medical or surgical wards.  Thematic analysis of the data was undertaken. 

Results: The major findings centered on four themes. Work Relationships demonstrated that positive relationships were more common with nurses on the same shift then on opposing shifts. Work Environment revealed nightshift nurses endured poorer working conditions in terms of physical and interpersonal interactions than their daytime counterparts. Work Practices showed nightshift provided opportunity for professional growth for some nurses but produced a slippage in skills for others. Impact on lifestyle and perceptions of others demonstrated nightshift provided nurses with flexibility for family and social activities yet impeded these same activities. The themes were influenced by perceived value and level of control held by the nurses.

Conclusion: Nightshift nurses had strong positive relationships with co-workers, but experienced disconnectedness with staff from other shifts and the facility in which they worked. They consider their role was highly critical yet believed they were poorly regarded. While the study took place in regional Australia it has implications for OEC and development member countries. The important areas of interpersonal relationships, effective leadership, work environment, clinical competencies and recognition of the critical role of night nurses must be used to inform future decisions that impact night shift nursing staff.