Quick returns (< 11 between shifts)

Shift work has in general been associated with an increased risk of poor health and an increased risk of accidents. However, we have relatively little knowledge of how quick returns (<11h between shifts) affect employee health and safety. The aim of this unique research project is to provide more knowledge on the effects of quick returns, that can be used to inform healthy and safe shift scheduling within the health care sector.


Approximately 320 000 Swedish shift workers have schedules that include quick returns. Quick returns are common within the Swedish health care sector and are often a result of employees working evening shifts, finishing around 9.30PM, followed by a morning shift starting at 6.45AM. This leaves only a little more than 9 hours for rest and sleep.   

Previous studies indicate that quick returns are associated with problems unwinding after work, shortened sleep length, poor sleep quality, fatigue and an increased risk of sick leave. However, most of these studies are cross-sectional and often rely on subjective measures. To draw more reliable conclusions, there is a need for studies with a more rigorous methodological approach, such as longitudinal design and objective measures of sleep, performance and health. There is also a need for more research on how work processes, continuity between shifts and quality of care are affected by quick returns.    

Studies within the project

Quick returns, sleep, and stress during the first 12 weeks within the profession

The aim of the first study was to analyze data reported weekly by newly graduated nurses. The data include ratings of sleep, fatigue, stress, workload and work hours during their first three months within the profession. The study was initiated in 2018, and was published in 2021 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33929547/) .

Quick returns and acute effects on health and performance

The aim of the second study is to investigate the acute effects of quick returns on measures of recovery, health and work performance. Data are collected from newly graduated nurses, whom we follow during both a work period with quick returns (evening-day-day) and a period without (day-day-day). We collect data using sleep and work diaries, actigraphy, cognitive tests and blood samples. The data collection will be finalized during the summer of 2023, and the results are to be published in 2024.  

An intervention for sustainable working hours

In this third study, our aim was to examine how a reduction of quick returns would affect employee health, work performance and stress. We compared hospital wards that aimed to remove or significantly reduce quick returns from schedules, to hospital wards that made no change to their schedule. The data collection was finalized in the spring of 2020. However, due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus the follow-up measures were confounded by changes related to the pandemic. These results have been reported here (https://ki-se.translate.goog/media/234174/download?attachment&_x_tr_sl=en&_x_tr_tl=sv&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=wapp)

Analysis of the baseline data on the perceived pros and cons of quick returns have been published here (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35896350/).

Co-workers and contact details

Principal investigator

Anna Dahlgren



PhD student

Kristin Öster

E-post: kristin.oster@ki.se

Clinical psychologist and PhD student at KI. Co-organizer of ReproducabiliTea at CNS, a journal club on the topics of open and reproducible science.


Affiliated researcher

Jenny Lindehall Hadrévi

Enhet:Psykologi Dahlgren



Please get in contact with us if you have any questions, or wish to learn more about the project.

Anna Dahlgren: anna.dahlgren@ki.se

Kristin Öster: kristin.oster@ki.se


Content reviewer: