Working night shifts is a part of medicine that we have come to accept. We work these shift because generations of people before us had done it. But could working night shifts have negative consequences? Night shifts have been shown to be detrimental to patient safety by increasing errors in medication administration and direct patient care. Working night shifts may negatively affect our health by increasing the risks of substance abuse, obesity, social relationships, and certain malignancies. Finally, working night shifts may lead to career burnout leading to dissatisfaction and early retirement from the profession.
Several strategies can be used to combat the negative effects of working night shifts and these include a better awareness of the problem, improved sleep hygiene, strategies for better rest, and alternative staffing techniques. The Casino shift is an alternative approach to scheduling, which has been found to combat several of the problems associated with night shifts.
Night shifts will never disappear because hospitals must operate 24 hours a day. We must be aware, however, that there are many potentially negative consequences to this practice as a better understanding of this problem will allow us to develop and research new solutions.