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The impact of shiftwork on health: a literature review

Authors

  • Annabel Matheson BN, RN,

    PhD Candidate, Lecturer, Corresponding author
    1. School of Nursing, Midwifery & Indigenous Health, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
    • Correspondence: Annabel Matheson, Lecturer, School of Nursing, Midwifery & Indigenous Health, Charles Sturt University, Panorama Ave, Bathurst 2795, NSW, Australia. Telephone: +61 02 6338 4086.

      E-mail: amatheson@csu.edu.au

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  • Louise O'Brien BA, PhD, RN,

    Professor of Nursing (Mental Health), Adjunct Research Fellow, Adjunct Professor
    1. Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, Bloomfield Campus, University of Newcastle and Greater Western Area Health Service, Orange, NSW, Australia
    2. Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
    3. University of Western Sydney, Orange, NSW, Australia
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  • Jo-Anne Reid BA, Bed, PhD

    Professor, Associate Dean Teacher Education, Co-editor of Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, Researcher
    1. Faculty of Education, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
    2. Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education [RIPPLE], Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
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Abstract

Aims and objectives

To identify the impact of shiftwork on individuals and their lives and to discuss the implications this has for nurses and nursing.

Background

The context of shiftwork in the early 21st century is changing rapidly, and those involved in or required to work shiftwork are now spread over many different sectors of the community. In the Australian community, 16% of workers regularly work shiftwork. Most nurses undertake shiftwork at some time in their career, and health services could not operate without a shiftworking nursing workforce.

Design

Narrative literature review.

Methods

A narrative review of journal articles was conducted. Databases searched were CINAHL, EBSCO Host, JSTOR, Medline/PubMed and Google Scholar. Search terms used were ‘shiftwork’ and ‘shift work’. Limitations included ‘English language’, ‘published between 1980–2013’ and ‘human’.

Results

Reviewed for this paper were 118 studies that met the inclusion criteria. Results were categorised using thematic analysis. Themes that emerged were physical and psychosocial health, and sleep. Findings will be explored under these themes.

Conclusions

Shiftwork research has mainly focussed on the physiological and psychosocial health and sleep effects. Absent from the literature are studies focussing on the personal experience of the shiftworker and how workers mediate the effects of shiftwork and how shiftwork fits into the rest of their lives. Therefore, it is difficult to draw conclusions about how people ‘manage’ their shiftwork, and further research needs to be undertaken in this area.

Relevance to clinical practice

Working shifts for nurses is a reality that comes with the profession. While there is a significant body of research on shiftwork, little of this has been specifically applied to nursing, and the implications for individual nurses needing to care for their own health have not been drawn.

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