Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Langenbecks Arch Surg. 2001 Mar;386(2):104-9.

Alternative shift models and the quality of patient care. An empirical study in surgical intensive care units.

Author information

  • 1Klinik und Poliklinik für Visceral- und Gefässchirurgie der Universität zu Köln, Joseph-Stelzmann Str. 9, D-50931 Köln.


On 1 January 1996, the German Arbeitszeitgesetz (working-time regulation) came into effect for hospital physicians. It states that working hours must not exceed 8 h per day, even for physician in hospitals. As a consequence, the prevalent two-shift model is legally inadmissible. The intention of this law is to protect the physician and to create better conditions for the patients. However, a systematic evaluation of the postulated benefits is still lacking.


The aim of our study was to analyze the influence of the length of daily working hours on the quality of patient care by measuring the outcome of patients in intensive care units (ICUs), comparing the two-shift model (2-SM)--two 12-h shifts--with the three-shift model (3-SM)--three 8-h shifts.


In a prospective multicenter study, we compared the outcome of patients in six ICUs (organized by surgeons) with different models of working hours. The health status of each patient and the course on ICU [described by hospital mortality, number of complications, readmission to the ICU, reinterventions, duration of the stay in an ICU and hospital, the course of the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II score] were uni- and multivariately analyzed. In addition, the technical and personnel resources of the ICUs and the hospitals were documented.


Three hundred and forty seven patients (103 2-SM, 244 3-SM) were included. The epidemiological and the health status on admission to the ICU were comparable. Patients in the 3-SM stayed 1.6 days longer on ICU and 2.3 days longer in the hospital than the 2-SM patients. The frequency of complications, reinterventions, and readmissions to ICU was higher in the 3-SM. The median of the APACHE-II score decreased more for 2-SM than for 3-SM patients. This means a significantly quicker recovery of the patients in 2-SM (P < 0.05). The multivariate analysis with individual outcome measures as dependent variables revealed a significant positive effect of the 2-SM on the physicians' assessment of postoperative course, on the relative frequency of therapeutic procedures, and to a lesser extent on the duration of stay in the ICU.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Springer
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk