How Do Nurses Cope with Shift Work? A Qualitative Analysis of Open-Ended Responses from a Survey of Nurses

Michael Savic, Rowan P. Ogeil, Megan J. Sechtig, Peta Lee-Tobin, Nyssa Ferguson, Dan I. Lubman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Nurses are frequently required to engage in shift work given the 24/7 nature of modern healthcare provision. Despite the health and wellbeing costs associated with shift work, little is known about the types of coping strategies employed by nurses. It may be important for nurses to adopt strategies to cope with shift work in order to prevent burnout, maintain wellbeing, and ensure high quality care to patients. This paper explores common strategies employed by nurses to cope with shift work. A workforce survey was completed by 449 shift working nurses that were recruited from a major metropolitan health service in Melbourne, Australia. Responses to open-ended questions about coping strategies were analysed using the framework approach to thematic analysis. Four interconnected main themes emerged from the data: (i) health practices, (ii) social and leisure, (iii) cognitive coping strategies, and (iv) work-related coping strategies. Although a range of coping strategies were identified, sleep difficulties often hindered the effective use of coping strategies, potentially exacerbating poor health outcomes. Findings suggest that in addition to improving nurses' abilities to employ effective coping strategies on an individual level, workplaces also play an important role in facilitating nurses' wellbeing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3821
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2019


  • coping
  • exercise/physical activity
  • health
  • nurses
  • shift work
  • sleep loss
  • stress
  • wellbeing

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