Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Bachelor of Health Science Nursing Honours


School of Nursing

First Supervisor

Dr Sybe Jongeling


Research specifically related to the needs and attitudes of nurses to night duty is in its infancy. Nurses have previously been included in studies related to circadian rhythms, and job satisfaction but only recently have complex aspects of the adaptation to working at night in health care institutions been given consideration. Shift work in general, has been identified as a stressful, occupational health hazard. Nurses cannot be compared to other shift workers. Chronobiological research now confirms that many individuals are unable to adapt to night work. This is in contrast to the historical management view which held the opinion that nurses should be able .to work any shift if required, in an organisation which offers a twenty four hour service to the public. A search of relevant literature indicated that nurses are becoming increasingly concerned about work practices and conditions at night as well as the quality of the nursing services provided. Alternative roster and staffing patterns are being researched to ensure staff levels are maintained, absenteeism is reduced and job satisfaction exists. Nurses from six Western Australian hospitals were invited to participate in this study which sought to identify nurses' attitudes toward night duty and to research the causes of these attitudes. Two hundred and fifty four nurses (61%) returned the questionnaire. The majority, regardless of role, indicated negative attitudes toward night duty predominantly generated by chronobiolgical factors and maladjusted circadian rhythms which caused chronic fatigue. Nineteen per cent (19%) of the respondents indicated that they would rather leave or change their role than work at night. The results of this study reinforce conclusions reached in a recent (1987) study on night shift work and night nursing services in the United Kingdom Situations and concerns related to night nurses identified internationally in Nursing Journals have been confirmed to exist in Western Australia. In the light of these findings, recommendations are made for the selection, orientation, and education of staff required to work at night. The medico-legal ramifications of current management practices are identified and an urgent need for further research with a view to identifying the quality of nursing services offered at night and occupational health and safety issues is recommended.