Associations of emergency nurses’ activity levels across rotating shifts

Miss Stephanie Chappel1, Associate Professor Brad Aisbett1, Professor Julie Considine2,3, Associate Professor Nicola Ridgers1

1Deakin University, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Geelong, Australia, 2Deakin University, School of Nursing and Midwifery and Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research, Geelong, Australia, 3Centre for Quality and Patient Safety Research – Eastern Health Partnership, Box Hill, Australia


Shiftwork is common for nurses and can have negative effects on nurses’ health. Currently little is known about how nurses’ engagement in different shiftwork patterns affects their workplace physical activity. The aim of this study was to determine whether emergency nurses’ activity during one shift were associated with their activity levels on the next day’s shift across a range of shift rotations.


Emergency nurses were recruited as part of the Physical Activity in Emergency Departments (PACED) Study from three emergency departments in Melbourne, Australia. Fifty emergency nurses (45 female, five male) wore an ActiGraph accelerometer, and completed work and sleep diaries across a maximum of four weeks in 2018. A sub-sample (n=42) also wore an activPAL inclinometer. Time spent sedentary, sitting, standing, stepping, and in light-, and moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity were determined. Multi-level analyses were conducted to examine associations between activity levels across consecutive shifts.


On average, emergency nurses spent the majority of a shift sedentary (67%) according to accelerometer data, and standing (55%) according to inclinometer data. No associations were found for consecutive night shifts. A positive association for increased physical activity across consecutive morning and afternoon shifts, and across the afternoon-morning and morning-afternoon shift rotations were found. However, increases in the time spent undertaking moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity was negatively associated with the physical activity levels in the next days’ shift for afternoon-morning and morning-afternoon shift rotations.


Emergency nurses’ physical activity levels decreased across the afternoon-morning and morning-afternoon rotations, however, nurses were able to maintain and/or increase their activity levels across the other shift schedules. Further research is required to investigate the affect that a decrease in activity levels may have on the quality of patient care provided.


Miss Stephanie Chappel is a PhD candidate in her final year at Deakin University. Stephanie completed her Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science (First Class Honours) in 2015 at Deakin University on ‘Firefighters Physical Activity across Multiple Shifts of Planned Burn Work’, published in 2016. Her PhD thesis aims to investigate emergency nurses’ activity levels, and in 2017 she published a systematic ‘Nurses’ occupational physical activity levels: A systematic review’.