Bamford, Nicola and Bamford, David (2008) The effect of a full shift system on doctors. Journal of Health Organisation and Management, 22 (3). pp. 223-237. ISSN 1477-7266

Purpose – This paper aims to investigate the implications and impact from the implementation of European Working Time Directive (EWTD) compliant working patterns (the introduction of shifts) on doctors.

Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative, case study based research method was used. Data collection involved: the application of semi-structured, open-ended interviewing to elicit information based upon categories defined from the literature survey; follow-up conversations with many interviewees; participant observation; thematic coding and analysis of the results.

Findings – Shifts are here to stay. All doctors interviewed acknowledged that, but there was a general feeling of minimal flexibility in the system. A recurrent theme when asked how things could be improved was to split-up the week of night shifts into two shorter periods. Some doctors, particularly those working full-time with small children, already split their weekends in order to spend time with their family.

Research limitations/implications – The methodology applied was appropriate, generating ample data to facilitate discussion and from which to draw specific conclusions. A perceived limitation is the single case approach; however Remenyi argues this can be enough to add to the body of knowledge.

Practical implications – The research generated suggestions for how shifts could be scheduled to make them more palatable for those who work them. Specific recommendations for future research are made.

Originality/value – The research questions of the paper draw out the personal implications for doctors of their employers' adherence to the implementation of EWTD

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