Floating nights: a 5-year experience with an innovative ED schedule.
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An academic emergency group was surveyed to determine if scheduling night shifts in blocks ("floats") improved attitudes and functioning. Seven physicians worked most of their nights as floats. Another four chose only isolated nights. Float physicians were surveyed for isolated and block nights. Faculty in the float group had poorer attitudes compared with the nonfloat group when both worked isolated nights (P = .0053). Working night floats eliminated these differences. Float physicians had more difficulty with sleep regardless of their schedule. They took longer to recover from an isolated night shift, drank more coffee, and used more postcall sedatives than their colleagues (P = .0108). The ideal night float was 2 to 4 weeks with shifts less than 10 hours, but careful attention to sleep hygiene remained essential. Physicians have different adaptability to night work. For some, concentrating night shifts is a useful strategy for improving shift work. This would require shorter shifts and larger groups than are now commonplace.