Did you know that, as I write these words, legal action is pending against more than one American healthcare facility regarding nurses being docked time for breaks that they never get to take? Are you a nurse who doesn’t take breaks, but you know it’s hurting you? Here on episode 68 of The Nurse Keith Show, we’re talking about how
giving a nurse a break is more important than ever!
In a recent blog post over on Digital Doorway, I shared that nurses the world over skip bathroom breaks, deny themselves meals, work while dehydrated, and otherwise punish their bodies while working. This is likely not a surprise to you.
A study in the UK showed that a significant number of clinicians may experience cognitive deficits while on the job due to dehydration. Ian Miller over on The Nurse Path wrote in 2013 that he had cause to believe that some nurses may be voluntarily dehydrating themselves while on shift in order to decrease the need to go to the bathroom.
In my blog post, I wrote:
We’re all aware how 21st-century healthcare has seen an enormous focus on patient satisfaction, so much so that Medicare reimbursement is now tied to HCAHPS scores, for better or worse. Despite the fact that patient satisfaction surveys may not always reflect patients’ actual experiences in all cases, such surveys are now a bottom line driver for hospital administrators and bean counters.
What healthcare employers seem to forget is that there is more than one bottom line; the ubiquitous financial bottom line is the one that so many maintain in crystal clear focus, yet the bottom line related to people (namely employees) is one that is summarily ignored by the majority.
While Magnet status is indeed earned through adherence to a limited number of positive employment practices related to nurses, nurse satisfaction has no bearing whatsoever on a hospital earning Magnet status, nor does it have an impact on Medicare reimbursement.
In my view, satisfied nurses will almost always deliver better care, which will naturally lead to overall improvements in patient satisfaction; however, nurse satisfaction seems but an afterthought for most healthcare employers focused single-mindedly on a balance sheet.
In terms of self-care, I shared that we need a new normal for nurses:
For better or worse, nurses likely need to take matters into their own hands when it comes to their own satisfaction. Since employers appear to give short shrift to the notion of nurse satisfaction, nurses may find themselves in the position of creating their own nurse satisfaction working groups within their workplaces. Whether a nurse manager or leader supports these efforts or not, I challenge nurses on a specific unit to band together to create a system wherein nurses are encouraged to take breaks and are rewarded for doing so. As a group effort, nurses can encourage and empower one another to take care of themselves, creating a new form of peer pressure wherein nurses take the reins of their own wellness, making sure that positive self-care becomes the new normal.
Whereas nurses may indeed internalize a certain martyrdom for which there is some positive feedback both internally and externally, there’s no true need to be a martyr. Just because many nurses have succumbed to the “norm” of not taking a break, not eating, not drinking, and not using the rest room while on shift, there’s no saying that the new normal couldn’t be one where nurses actually support one another in assiduously practicing positive self-care.
And this is the self-care challenge that I’m issuing to nurses:
- Band together with nurses on your unit and collectively decide that self-care is worth your attention and energy.
- Subvert the dominant paradigm, and make self-care what the cool nurses do.
- Create an incentive program for how nurses will be publicly rewarded for taking breaks, eating lunch, etc. Make this incentive program a form of friendly competition.
- Invite administrators and managers to get involved; if management rejects the idea, move forward without them.
- Make self-care an intrinsic part of nurse orientation and onboarding.
- Consider contacting the local media and making a public statement about what nurses are subjected to on the job and how you’re working positively to change the paradigm
- Be accountability partners for your colleagues and help one another practice better on-the-job self-care.
Give Yourself A Break
For those of you who work in clinical milieus, taking a break is paramount. You know yourself that providing optimal patient care is enhanced by nurse self-care. And when some employers don’t actively encourage nurses to practice self-care, nurses need to take it upon themselves to do it anyway. Meanwhile, if you have an employer or manager or nurse leader who actually talks about self-care, makes sure that nurses get breaks, and keeps his or her finger on the pulse of the team, good for you (and tell me who those employers or managers are; they deserve a gold star!)
This episode of The Nurse Keith Show is brought to you by my friends at StaffGarden, a unique digital healthcare company allowing nurses to create a private online ePortfolio that StaffGarden shares with high-quality employers (with your permission, of course) in order to connect you with the best facilities and positions.
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The NNBA and Networking Nurses
In the fall of 2015, I recorded episode 29 of the Nurse Keith Show from Las Vegas, Nevada, where I was glowing from a glorious time at the annual conference of the National Nurses in Business Association (NNBA). Well, from October 14th to 16th of this year, I’ll be back at the 2016 NNBA conference with bells on, and I’m super psyched that Kevin Ross and Elizabeth Scala—my partners in crime at RNFM Radio—will also be with me.
Just as a heads up, the three of us from RNFM Radio will be putting on a pre-conference workshop where attendees will be able to learn the basics of podcasting, and actually go home with all of the information they need to actually launch a podcast on a shoestring. There are other great pre-conferences on the schedule, as well, but we obviously want you to come to ours because it’s going to be fantastic. Check it all out here.
The Nurse Keith Show is adroitly edited and produced by Tim Hallowell of The PodcastingGuy.com; social media and promotion are expertly handled by Mark Capispisan.
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Be well, dig deep, and keep in touch!
Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind NurseKeith.com and the well-known blog, Digital Doorway.
Keith is co-host of RNFMRadio.com, a wildly popular nursing podcast; he also hosts The Nurse Keith Show, his own podcast focused on career advice and inspiration for nurses. Keith is also the resident nursing career expert at Nurse.com.
A widely published nurse writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.” He has also contributed chapters to a number of books related to the nursing profession, and currently writes for MultiViews News Service, LPNtoBSNOnline.com, StaffGarden, and Working Nurse Magazine.
Mr. Carlson brings a plethora of experience as a nurse thought leader, online nurse personality, holistic career coach, writer, and well-known successful nurse entrepreneur. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his lovely and talented wife, Mary Rives.