The goldilocks effect: the rhythms and pace of hospital life

Jeffrey Braithwaite*, Louise A. Ellis, Kate Churruca, Janet C. Long

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
47 Downloads (Pure)


Background: While we have made gains in understanding cultures in hospitals and their effects on outcomes of care, little work has investigated how the pace of work in hospitals is associated with staff satisfaction and patient outcomes. In an era of efficiency, as speed accelerates, this requires examination. Discussion: Older studies of pace in cities found that faster lifestyles were linked to increased coronary heart disease and smoking rates, yet better subjective well-being. In this debate we propose the Goldilocks hypothesis: acute care workplaces operating at slow speeds are associated with factors such as increased wait lists, poor performance and costly care; those that are too fast risk staff exhaustion, burnout, missed care and patient dissatisfaction. We hypothesise that hospitals are best positioned by being in the Goldilocks zone, the sweet spot of optimal pace. Conclusion: Testing this hypothesis requires a careful study of hospitals, comparing their pace in wards and departments with measures of performance and patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number529
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Busy-ness
  • Complexity
  • Efficiency
  • Optimal hospital performance
  • Pace of life
  • Patient outcomes
  • Staff satisfaction


Dive into the research topics of 'The goldilocks effect: the rhythms and pace of hospital life'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this