Title. Night duty as an opportunity for learning.
Aim. This paper is a report of a study to examine what opportunities night nurses have to learn in terms of being able to distinguish variations in the patients’ conditions.
Background. Night nurses often lack access to the formalized in-service training offered to day nurses. As every clinical experience can be seen as an opportunity for learning, learning takes place even at night. However, the learning of night nurses has not been studied previously.
Method. This study is based on interviews with a convenience sample of 10 night nurses at a medium-sized Swedish hospital in 2001. These interviews were reanalysed in 2006 concerning learning situations. The interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed verbatim, coded and examined using latent content analysis.
Findings. There are certain opportunities for learning during the night shift, and three learning situations come to the fore: (1) the report situation, (2) the personal assessment round, where the nurses form their own picture of the patient, (3) in assessment prior to contact with the doctor on duty. Nurses learn from variations in patients’ conditions and when they have to report their experience verbally. Learning does take place at night and gestalt psychology is a helpful tool for understanding how former knowledge and experience affect night nurses’ learning.
Conclusion. Knowledge developed during the night shift is a neglected field. There is a need for further investigations of what night nurses learn, and this knowledge ought to be integrated in the body of nursing knowledge.