Panama shift pattern

Sometimes referred to as a “2-2-3” schedule, the Panama shift schedule is a slow shift rotation system where four teams work two separate 12-hour shifts. It’s particularly useful for things like emergency services and the healthcare industry where staff are needed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Example of a Panama shift pattern

When working to a Panama shift pattern, staff work:

2x days on

2x days off

3x days on

followed by

2x days off

2x days on

3x days off

The cycle then repeats, covering a total of 28 days, at which point the night and day teams will usually swap over.

Shift length tends to be constant when using a Panama shift pattern, but scheduled days off change from one week to the next — making it tricky for staff to make plans without keeping a close eye on their rota.

Why is it called the Panama shift pattern?

The origins of the name “Panama shift pattern” are unclear, but some people believe that this scheduling method was originally developed by United States forces operating in the Panama Canal Zone in the mid-to-late 1900s, with the term — and rota pattern — eventually catching on in non-military circles too.

Online rota software

Reclaim your workday with RotaCloud

Plan rotas, record attendance, and manage annual leave in minutes with RotaCloud.

  • 30-day free trial
  • No card required