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ADOPTED: Improving patient safety, workforce wellbeing and NHS efficiency through improved shift patterns for nursing staff: study protocol

Principal Investigator: Dr Chiara Dall'Ora, University of Southampton

Funded: Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard grant

Starts: 1/9/23

Ends: 31/8/24

Lay summary

What is the problem?

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us something, it is how important the wellbeing of the health workforce is. Nurses form a big part of the health workforce, yet many leave their job because of poor working conditions. In recent years, hospital managers introduced long shifts for nurses, hoping nurses would be happier with their work-life balance.

However, our research found that long shifts have negative effects for nurses and patients. We still do not know what good shift patterns look like.

What will we do?

We will identify possible improvements to shift patterns that work for nurses, their managers and patients. We will interview nurses and their managers to understand what they value when it comes to shift rostering. We will talk with a group of

patients to understand what good care looks like to them. We will then run an online experiment. In this experiment we will present staff with a series of modified shift patterns. Using statistics, we will understand which shift patterns staff prefer.

Why is this important?

If we find changes to shift patterns that are acceptable for nurses, managers and patients, we can trial these changes in a real-life experiment. If the experiment - called "trial"- shows that changes to shift patterns work, fewer nurses will leave

their jobs. If we find how to make nurses’ work less tiring, they will make fewer mistakes that compromise patient care. In addition, if fewer nurses leave, healthcare systems will save money.

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