Background. The paper explores the theoretical and practical bases of both commitment and control within the context of temporal aspects of flexible working in nursing. Aim. The aims of the paper are to examine the relationships between nurses' shift patterns, influence over shift pattern and realization of shift preference and commitment to nursing. Methods. Data were collected through a postal questionnaire completed by 2987 British nurses employed in hospitals, care homes and hospices. Principal components analysis was used to identify common factors among responses to a series of 33 statements about working life. Data were analysed using ANOVA and multiple regression techniques. Results. Permanent night shift nurses reported lower levels of commitment to nursing. As predicted, influence over shift patterns and realization of preferred shift pattern were positively associated with commitment to nursing, although the relationship was weak. Positive perceptions of career development opportunities were a stronger predictor of commitment to nursing. Results are discussed in light of previous ethnographic research on nurses' shift patterns. Conclusion. The opportunity to explore quantitatively the effects of shift-related decisions on commitment using a large sample is useful. While influence and shift type were predictors of commitment, the positive impact they were expected to have was smaller than expected. Similarly, the negative effects of not having influence or of working permanent night shifts were smaller than expected and the statistical significance of such small effects relies heavily on the large sample obtained. Other variables, particularly career development prospects, outweigh the influence of shift-related variables on commitment. The research gives a clear message to human resource managers involved with nurse management: so long as nurses have a strong perception of career development potential the otherwise negative influences of shift impact can be minimized.
shift work, professional commitment, career development, night shift, nursing, choice, human resource management