20 August 2015

Flexible shift length a must for nurse wellbeing

Nurses and healthcare professionals frequently put the needs of their patients before their own; just ask anyone that has stayed on after a shift ended to make sure a patient received the care they needed. But shift length, team culture and variable staffing levels can all impact upon an individual’s wellbeing.

In a recent #NurChat discussion on the topic of the wellbeing of nurses and healthcare professionals, there were preferences shared for a range of shift patterns including long days, short days and regular nights. 12-hour days were the choice of many nurses because they allowed for greater time off in the week but also better continuity of care for the patients.

Others felt that length of shift left them too exhausted, unsafe to drive home or worried about their concentration levels, which led them to choose shorter shifts. Some also reported regular unhealthy snacking when working long shifts and even missing breaks altogether.

Those who work shorter shifts found a better work/life balance through being less tired and able to spend time with family when not working. However, several healthcare staff working short shifts said they often worked overtime, sometimes due to staffing levels, so they often came close to working 12-hour shifts.

Student nurses also found long days challenging when trying to combine placement learning with academic study. 8-hour shifts allow more time for reflective learning as well as university work and personal time. The variety of shift patterns experienced on placements can help a student nurse identify a working routine that suits them for the future.

The importance of a flexible rota that works best for the individual nurse or healthcare professional was clear in the opinions shared, however it seemed this was not always available. One #NurChatter reported moving job for a working routine that suited them better.

Workplace team culture was also highlighted as an important factor in staff wellbeing. The opportunity to have a team de-brief after a shift or share experiences in an informal way can reduce stress and emotional load. However, when team spirit is less strong it can leave an individual feeling isolated and unsupported.

How to relax after a shift in order to make the most of rest time also drew many suggestions, with some using their hobbies such as baking, music, reading, yoga and games to leave work behind. Others suggested exercise, while a popular choice were adult colouring books.

Twitter communities such as a #NurChat have a role to play in supporting nurses and healthcare professionals in their roles, but the public nature of social media platforms means that only information not considered confidential should be shared.

Come along and join us on the next #NurChat on 1st September 2015 at 8pm BST and get involved in the conversation.