RCN Say Take a Break. So What’s Your Problem?

The RCN have launched an initiative to encourage staff to take breaks and hydrate.

The Royal College of Nursing have launched The Three Rs initiative, which is designed to raise awareness among employers, managers and staff of the importance of taking breaks, re-hydrating and eating well during shifts.

Kim Sunley, RCN National Officer, said “Missed breaks have become the norm and this is not sustainable.”

The initiative provides resource packs, including workplace posters, which should be used to raise awareness of the issue.

This is all good and well, but you have to ask yourself why this has become the norm. Nurses not taking breaks, not eating and not drinking is not a problem, it’s a symptom of a problem. Very few people will choose to be dehydrated, but when you haven’t got the time for your patients, you are unlikely to make time for yourself.

There is also the issue of poor, or a lack of, management in some workplaces. Having the awareness to ensure that your staff are able to function at their best is a management skill that is often lacking. Even when such a skill is present, managers are often so engulfed with day to day tasks that they don’t have the time to check on their team(s).

So, we have increasingly demanding work environments, staffing constraints and poor or over worked management to contend with, before we can use the loo or grab a drink of water. That’s not all, nursing is a vocation…right? So, you should literally flog yourself to death in order to do it… right. The Cambridge dictionary online defines a vocation as “a type of work that you feel you are suited to doing and to which you should give all of your time and energy…”. Is this what we really sign up for? Come on!

The bottom line is that illegal and unsafe working practices have become the norm. Nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals put their patients and their professional careers at risk due to this. They carry a safety risk because the employers and government are not willing to carry the financial risk of properly funding services.  The very people who arrive at work at 9am, leave by 5pm and have an hour for lunch every day, Monday to Friday and have weekends off make policies and budget decisions that tie the hands of those on the front-line.

When we go to work we want to do our best. When we go to work we hope we will be able to do our best. When we go to work we are not enabled to do our best. Employers and managers should be enablers. All too often they are the restricting force, but they rarely feel the impact of such restrictions.

It is right that the RCN should carry out this campaign, but such conditions would not be tolerated in other working environments and should not be tolerated in ours. It feels as if we are part of some BBC documentary in which they are talking about Victorian work houses, “They rarely got a break and could go an entire shift without eating or drinking. Some workers reported not knowing when they last went to the toilet”.

So, the legislation is in place, the employers know it, the managers may not. We, as healthcare professionals, know the impact or dehydration, low blood sugars and fatigue. Yet, we need one of our unions to make posters to “raise awareness”. People are aware, they are simply not enabled.

How hard is it to get a break or drink where you work? Do you often miss meals?

 

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