Aim: To explore how nurses recover from night shift work during periods off duty.
Background: Given the large number of affected individuals globally, detrimental health outcomes of night shift work are an important public health issue. Sufficient recovery opportunities are essential to prevent prolonged fatigue associated with demanding tasks and high workload as experienced in nurses working long shifts during the night.
Method: Nurses (n = 53, 96% females) who worked in two public nursing homes in Austria completed a 5-day diary to collect data on well-being conceptualized by fatigue, distress and vigour.
Results: Nurses experienced worse well-being post night shift days than during rest days. Well-being improved from post night shift day 2 to the following rest day 1 and continued improvement from rest day 1 to rest day 2.
Conclusions: Nurses who work at nights are at risk for experiencing prolonged fatigue. Our results suggest that after two consecutive 12-hr night shifts full recovery needs at least three days off work.
Implications for nursing management: Strategies for maintaining nurses' good health and caring attitudes as well as vigilance for patient safety should include fatigue management plans and optimised schedules for night shift work.
Keywords: allostatic load; night work; nursing homes; recovery from work; resource depletion; work-related fatigue.
© 2018 The Authors. Journal of Nursing Management Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.