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Volume 14 Supplement 1

Improving access to healthcare

  • Speaker presentation
  • Open Access

What is the extent, range and nature of evidence available around the impact of 12-hour nursing shift patterns?

BMC Nursing201514 (Suppl 1) :S11

  • Published:


  • Nursing Care
  • Relevant Paper
  • Primary Research
  • Work Organisation
  • Detrimental Impact


12-hour shift patterns in nursing are increasingly prevalent in health and care organisations. Key drivers are potential financial savings, perceived impact on staff recruitment/retention and improved continuity of care. However, there are concerns that longer shifts may have a detrimental impact on patients, staff, service delivery/productivity, and access to healthcare staff.


A comprehensive scoping review using Arksey & O'Malley's methodological framework [1] was undertaken in 2013-2014 to answer the question ‘What is the extent, range and nature of evidence available around the impact of 12-hour nursing shift patterns?’ A wide range of electronic databases were searched; papers identified were independently reviewed by 2 reviewers.


158 potentially relevant papers were published between 1973 and 2014; 85 primary research studies and 10 reviews were included. These addressed 5 themes: risks to patients, patient experience, risks to staff, staff experience and impact on the organisation of work. Evidence of the effects of 12-hour shift patterns is inconclusive in all 5 themes, with some studies demonstrating positive impacts and others negative or no impacts.


There is insufficient evidence to justify widespread implementation or withdrawal of 12-hour shifts. The benefits and risks of 12-hour shifts for patients and staff are complex and not clearly understood. More research on patient safety and experience of care, on the long-term impact on staff and work organisation and the impact on continuity of care and patient access to direct nursing care is needed.

Authors’ Affiliations

Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, Kingston University and St George's, University of London, UK


  1. Arksey H, O'Malley L: Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. 2005, 8 (1): 19-32.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
  2. Harris R, Sims S, Parr J, Davies N: Impact of 12 hour shift patterns in nursing: a scoping review. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 2015, 52 (2): 605-634.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar


© Harris 2015

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.