The experience of night shift registered nurses in an acute care setting : a phenomenological study
Anderson, Valerie Valdez
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The night shift environment in acute care nursing is a unique and poorly understood entity. Retention of experienced nurses on the night shift is vital to the provision of quality care and the nurturing of new nurses. The goal of this phenomenological study was to elicit a description of the lived experience of experienced night shift nurses with the goal of gleaning information that would improve the work environment on the night shift. Five experienced night shift RNs participated in self-directed interviews, responding to the question, "Can you please share your experiences as an RN working the night shift?" The interview data were analyzed using Giorgi's phenomenological method to arrive at a typical and essential structure of the experience. The results revealed negative and positive aspects of working a night shift schedule. Negative aspects of night shift nursing included a feeling of being misunderstood and undervalued professionally and personally. Inadequate resources, on the night shift, was also identified as a barrier to nurse satisfaction, and negatively influencing the provision of quality nursing care and quality orientation of new nurses. Negative physiologic influences of night shift centered around poor quality and quantity of sleep. While these negative influences were consistently presented by all participants, so were the positive aspects of night shift nursing. The participants of this study were strongly invested in the teamwork they experienced within their night shift work environment. Interdependent team spirit was found to have arisen in response to the lack of resources experienced by these nurses. This teamwork, along with the other positive aspects, such as autonomous practice and positive effects on personal time, were seen as incentives for these experienced nurses to continue nursing on the night shift. Nursing administration may be able to utilize the information gleaned from this study to optimize the night shift work environment, and subsequently, increase retention of the experienced nurse. Further research is needed to clarify: the needs of experienced nurses in varying clinical settings, the needs of inexperienced night shift nurses, and the representativeness of the data found in this study to larger numbers of nurses.