Career Focus


BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 16 November 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:S3a-7067

Shift working has been an increasingly common consequence of the reduction in junior doctors' hours. As doctors try to reduce their hours, the trend in other jobs has been to compress the working week into fewer shifts of 12 hours. Advocates of this system have evidence that the quality of home life of young couples working in this way is higher than those working shorter and more shifts. The health effects of this change, however, are not known. According to a paper in Occupational and Environmental Medicine (1996;53:767-72), which looked at the health outcomes of different patterns of shifts, there is no ideal system, but there was little to choose between 12 hour and eight hour shifts. Longer periods of work-for example, two 12 hour night shifts followed by two 12 hour day shifts-have been found to increase fatigue and result in poorer quality of care among nurses.

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