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Adventures in Sleep

Time for a Change in Work Scheduling

Published November 21, 2012 8:27 AM by Penny Mehaffey
NURSES BURN OUT ON LONG SHIFTS!!

Well surprise, surprise, surprise, and to quote one of my favorite malcontent Disney characters, Diego, "I am not surprised, I am so not surprised, I think I am going to die from not surprise!"

This article under this headline laments the long 12-hour shifts nurses must work and how dissatisfied they become with the job, how patient care and satisfaction suffer. How many more of these studies do we need before someone takes the high road and stops demanding the workforce comply with whatever crazy schedule the company imposes?

Doctors, police officers, firefighters, and paramedics work long shifts too.  In our area it's common for some to work 24 hours on shift.  Let's not forget those who do true shift work, and by that I mean swing shifts--a week or two of days,  then evenings, then nights, then only a day or two in which to "turn around." How many reports of horrible mishaps by air traffic controllers have we heard about?  Tragic trucking accidents where the driver fell asleep? And what about the train engineers? How many more before those long shifts are regulated?

And why is this dilemma going on so long?  It's not that we are unaware of the problem. Is the workforce really shrinking that much, the nursing shortage that bad? Not enough new people are entering the work force so we must maximize the time the current staff spends working?  All things being relative, I live in a city with five major hospitals and three nursing schools.  You would think a nurse could leave one job today and have another tomorrow and that the hospitals would have a new pool of nurse graduates to pick from every year. And while, in theory, that may be true, is it possible the shortage is created by the hospitals' budgets and not the number of available nurses in our workforce?  Hiring freezes are in effect at all most every institution and demands to do more with less are our mottos. 

Who would not be happy with an 8-hour shift?  I remember, back in the day, when three 8-hour shifts per day were the norm.  Lunch and 15-minute breaks were mandatory, and you did not skip those under strict penalty.  Now, 12-plus hour shifts are the norm and what is a lunch break?  I mean you can eat but if your patient calls, you go take care of it.  I think that is jokingly called the "working lunch."  Those 8-hour shifts sound like a vacation to me. Sign me up! 

I know my comments sound ludicrous. But so do these surveys that continue to fall on deaf ears.  I am sure the data are true. Surely there is a solution to this problem, but does anyone really care? Are we powerless to control our destiny?

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    Adventures in Sleep
    Occupation: Sleep technicians
    Setting: Various sleep facilities
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