How to stay focused on a 12 hour night shift
Provision of 24 hour nursing care inevitably involves shift work and flexible working, including long days or 12 hour shifts (Newy and Hood 2004, Lorenz 2008 )
Many hospitals in the UK that I have worked in have changed shifts patterns from the traditional
8 hours to 12 hours over the past few years. This was unheard of when I started my nursing journey over 30 years ago.
The 12 hours shift patterns enables Ward managers to plan the staffing rota in a more cost effective and easier way as there
is just 2 shifts in 24 hours. Rotas can be responsive to peaks and troughs in demand. Long hours are beneficial
to staff who travel long distances because they cover their full time contracted hours within 3 days as opposed
to 5 days therefore saving on travel costs and more days away from work.
Now, how do you continue to effectively deliver high quality care to your patients during this 12 hour shift?
Working a 12 hour shift is a challenge to many nurses and also raises questions about patient safety and provision
of quality care. Some hospitals offer 30 minutes break for the entire shift whereas some do offer 60 minutes.
To overcome fatigue, stress and low morale, it is advisable to take mini breaks whenever possible to regain
your strength ensuring that you drink lots of fluids. Dehydration can increase exhaustion and lead to poor
concentration which will be detrimental to patient safety. Increased errors, slowed reactions, irritability could be signs
of health effects experienced by individual staff members. Ongoing Staff shortages have a big impact on the smooth running
of wards. Increased sickness and reduced productivity may be prevalent in areas where staff are unable to take breaks.
Key advice for night workers is: Get extra sleep before your first night shift.