An occupational look at temporal adaptation: Night shift nurses

Heather A. Gallew, Keli Mu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This phenomenological study describes the lived-experience of night shift and the adaptive strategies used by night shift nurses. Eleven female night shift nurses working in the nursery and birthing centers of two affiliated Midwestern hospitals in the United States participated in the study. Face to face, semi-structured individual interviews were conducted and data were analyzed using a qualitative approach to discover patterns and themes. Two themes emerged that reflected the lived experiences of the night shift nurses: (1) Living by night, sleeping by day: The masquerade, and (2) Relationships and family lives: A kaleidoscope. Two additional themes were identified to describe the adaptive strategies of the night shift nurses: (3) A ‘just do it’ attitude and (4) Occupational strategies for nightlife. Findings of the study suggest that the temporal challenges and demands of night shift disrupt occupational patterns and routines, which are strongly influenced by the diurnal nature of humans. Many of the night shift nurses made sacrifices in order to fulfill their life-roles and re-establish meaningful occupational routines. As they struggled to adjust, many also experienced feelings of guilt, as if they were wasting their day sleeping. The process of temporal adaptation to night shift is complex and continuous and affects all domains of the night shifter's life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-30
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Occupational Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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