Christy Kurtz

Document Type


Publication Date



Nursing shift lengths are widely debated, and the implications on both nurse and patient safety are quite large. This work seeks to present a current review of literature describing the current work schedules of nurses in comparison to the Institute of Medicine’s 2004 recommendations and both the positive and negative effects that these schedules have on nurses and their patients. Eleven studies from the past five years (2004-2009) are included, with particular emphasis on those studies that address the dispute between continuity of care and nursing fatigue. Results show that nurses are regularly working longer than is recommended, and this overtime is having a negative effect on the quality of patient care. However, longer shift lengths also bring increased continuity of care, which improves quality outcomes. Very few studies sought to determine whether continuity of care or decreased fatigue was the most important. Further research specifically addressing this contention is needed in order for health agencies to make an evidence based decision on nursing shift length.

Included in

Nursing Commons