Authors: Eve Burns, RVN.

Eve qualified as an RVN at Hartpury University in 2021 and has since worked in mixed and
small animal practices in the south-west. At the start of 2024, she moved to Jurassic Vets in
Sidmouth, where she hopes to complete her certificate in medical nursing. Outside work, Eve
and her husband love to head out on their boat or chill in the garden with her three rabbits.

Carol Gray, BVMS, MA, PhD, MRCVS, FHEA

Carol is a veterinary surgeon who has spent time in small animal practice, veterinary education
and research and is now a principal lecturer in veterinary nursing at Hartpury University.
Her main research interests are decision-making for veterinary patients, research ethics and
informed consent.

Sarah Vivian, MRe, BSc (Hons), RVN, DET, FHEA

Sarah is an RVN with interests in the education and mental health support of veterinary
professionals. Her current focus is on the professional identity of veterinary nurses. She is a
lecturer at the University of Bristol.


ABSTRACT Lack of sleep can affect concentration and reaction times. This study investigates the effects
of working on-call emergency shifts on the cognitive function and motor skills of veterinary professionals,
using a cross-sectional experimental design. A pilot testing battery – based on the Bruininks Motor Ability Test and the CANTAB Cognitive Safety Phase 1 Battery – was used on participating veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses after every night shift in a 4-week period using a cross-sectional experimental design. Significant differences were demonstrated in multiple cognitive functions, motor skills and reaction times between those who lost little sleep and those who lost lots of sleep. The study was conducted in a single practice, with a small sample size and within a short time frame, which limits the conclusions that can be drawn; however, it still demonstrates proof of concept and forms a basis on which further studies can be created to confirm the reliability of the results. The study demonstrates that veterinary professionals suffer the same detrimental effects of out-of-hours shifts as their counterparts in human medicine, and suggests that steps need to be taken to prevent this affecting staff wellbeing and patient outcomes. The study also allows for discussions around the further use and adaptation of battery testing to help support these findings. Practice managers, veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses in leadership roles could use these findings to focus on staff scheduling and allowing for proper rest periods, and they could potentially help to improve the wellbeing and retention of staff. The pilot study has helped raise awareness of the similarities between veterinary and medical professionals and the need for further exploration of this topic.
Keywords out-of-hours, night shift, workplace, health, safety, veterinary, staff, wellbeing

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