Two Victorian hospitals are trialling a new “body clock” rostering system.

The trial is designed to improve doctors’ performance and patient safety.

Experts have created a staff rostering schedule for doctors at the Austin and Monash hospitals that is based on the latest sleep research to mitigate fatigue.

Intensive care doctors involved in the trail will work no more than three consecutive night shifts, with a minimum of 11 hours' rest between shifts.

Shift patterns that invert the 24-hour body clock will be removed too.

“What is concerning is that shift workers are often employed in the most critical jobs, including the 30,000-plus doctors who work in Australian hospitals,” Associate Professor Mark Howard, a sleep and respiratory specialist.

He the new roster should see staff feeling fresher and more alert.

“Many shift workers in this field will be working 12-hour shifts, and often many times in a row, and this can have a variety of impacts,” he said.

“We're hopeful these changes will result in improved vigilance and alertness, reduced errors and improved safety for both staff and patients.

“Most people on long night shifts will be only able to manage five or six hours of sleep and that impacts on your ability to make decisions at work but it also has a significant impact on your health.

“The first night of many night shifts you're trying to sleep when your body says you should be awake, so that can affect your ability to make decisions.

“We want to improve the performance and wellbeing of all people working night shift.”