How does shift work on placement affect healthcare students’ lives?

Abstract

As a healthcare student, it is essential to undertake clinical practice placements in the relevant field. Practice placements enable students to become competent healthcare professionals, increasing clinical confidence and ensuring that statutory, regulated requirements are met. As part of a healthcare professional education, it can be expected that an individual will have to undergo a variety of working hours, including social and anti-social hours, and shift work. Moreover, as a qualified professional, there is an increasing demand to undertake a combination of both day and night shifts within the same week. Research evidence indicates that such shift patterns can lead to shift work disorder (SWD); exacerbated by the demands of the profession, SWD is associated with poor decision making and health implications. Current research focuses on healthcare professionals in general, with little attention given to healthcare students. Therefore, it fails to recognise the detrimental effects that shift work can have, not only on a student’s physiological and mental state, but also on their personal and academic life. The aim of this paper is to determine students’ perceptions of the impact of shift working on their physical health, personal life and academic studies. Initially a pilot study was developed to explore how data quality could be improved and trustworthiness and credibility maximised. An explorative, qualitative approach was used by means of semi-structured interviews. Prompts were used to enhance a participant’s exploration and to develop rich data. Thematic analysis of the data identified four overarching themes: professional challenges, resilience, workplace challenges and negative effects of shift work. Participants identified periods of vulnerability and isolation alongside excessive tiredness and stress on family life. Participants also recognised differing eating habits and ill health following shift work. Furthermore, it was highlighted within the data that some participants developed coping strategies and built resilience to the stressors of combining academia and practical placements. Time constraints led to limited participant availability, restricting the amount of data offered and the number of healthcare disciplines represented. This study identified the physical and mental health implications for future healthcare professionals at an early stage in their career, warranting necessary further research. Healthcare educators should utilise the findings to develop firm support systems to direct students during both clinical placements and theory work. Furthermore, clinical practice administrators need to develop policies to promote a positive training environment where students feel well supported.

Keywords

Shift work, professional education, healthcare students, practice placements, health implications.

How to Cite

Gee G. (2017) “How does shift work on placement affect healthcare students’ lives?”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research. 3(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.5920/fields.2017.03

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Geri Gee

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

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This article has been peer reviewed.

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