Empowering Nurses at the Bedside and in Business

Give Me A Break

Just about every day I hear that nurses cannot take their required breaks.  If they do take a break, it puts their patients at risk by giving the other nurses more patients to watch.

In fact, several lawsuits have been filed against health care institutions claiming that nurses were not getting the breaks there were supposed to take and, even though they worked through those break periods, their paychecks would reflect a 30-minute deduction as if they had actually taken the required breaks.

Nurses need undisturbed break time on each shift because of the emotional and physical demands of the job.  It may seem easy to say, “Oh, just leave and take that break.”  However, many nurses don’t feel comfortable doing that, especially if the unit’s staffing is not adequate to meet the needs of the patients.  We all know that short-staffing leads to medication errors and poor patient care.

One interesting thing that I learned is that in California, some health care facilities have what are called “break nurses.”  A break nurse comes to the floor and asks the nurse on duty “what do you need me to do?”  Then they actually insist that the nurse leave and take their deserved break.  I love this idea because the break nurse will take over whatever needs to be done for that 30-minute period so that you can get your meal.

Now, many nurses don’t want to impose on others to do their job for them, but the benefits of taking their break far outweighs asking for help.

Some places hire break nurses just to work the few hours to take over patient assignments while the regular nurse takes their break.  I really love this concept. I think it is huge help to ensure nurses get their breaks.  Not taking a break should not be an option.

However, if you don’t have break nurses and for whatever reason, you’re not able to use your break time, make sure that you are paid for that time.

It is more important to take that break to allow yourself to be rejuvenated, increase your energy, mood and decision-making which, will help you get through the remainder of your shift.

If your facility does not have break nurses, it may be worthwhile to suggest to administration the idea of a “break nurse.”  This way, all the work gets done in a timely manner, reduces the need for overtime while reducing errors and medical malpractice claims as well.

Do you routinely get your breaks?  If not … why?  Do you have break nurses and how do they work out?  I’d love to hear your comments below.


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