do nurses take breaks?

Do Nurses Take Breaks?

This is a simply answer for the most part: NO

Nurses tend to get caught up in their work, regardless of the setting. From direct patient care, to supervision of care, to management and administration, we tend to want to fix things and then look for the next thing to fix. We typically forget about ourselves for the most part. 

SO, how many breaks did you take this week????


In order to get nurses to take breaks, they must understand why breaks are important and that they are encouraged to do so. 

So Just keep calm and go take a lunch break!

Many times easier said than done..Let's look at what works at some facilities to get nurses to break, but first a closer look at why breaks are important!

why do nurses take breaks?

Imagine you are in a swim meet, then you go to the track and run without taking a break, drinking water or eating anything. Well, this is exactly what nurses do. We work in high stress situations, resolve them and then move on to the next. Our minds over power our bodies and we push ourselves to be there for our patients and team, very rarely taking the time to replenish our bodies and minds. 

Research shows a reduction in overall job performance when we do not eat, drink, and rest for small periods of time. As we become fatigued, our communication skills can be affected. This alone can place the nurse and the patient at risk for errors. 

Studies have shown that as little as 47% of nurses take a break away from their patient care responsibilities. This is simply unacceptable. Whether it is to eat, go to the restroom, drink fluids, or walk and clear your rest or rest your eyes for 15 minutes, nurses must break away when possible to recharge the batteries. 

Strategies to get nurses off the floor!

I have always liked the buddy system. You cover my patients and I cover yours so we can both eat! Partner early in the shift and make a plan. Communicate during the shift to respond to the unexpected issues that pop up. If you planned to go first but now have to prep your patient for the OR have your partner go first while asking others nurses to soften the blow from absorbing the additional patients. 

Keep Nurses out of patient care assignments to circulate and relief the assigned nurses. I worked in a hospital where this worked very well. Of course you need the resources available so this can work. The unit I worked on budgeted for this and it worked very well. The relief nurse would circulate and cover patient care while nurses went to lunch or dinner as well as just off the floor to walk or breathe. 

Some organizations set assigned break times with the expectation that you leave and go after a brief report off to the charge or supervisor who will over see the unit. This can be tricky as I was a supervisor involved in this. Many times I had to tell the nurse to go to keep things on schedule. Sometimes the reasons why the nurse did not feel comfortable were valid, others was the nurse simply wanted to stay in their rhythm. 

Go to your manager and make sure they support breaks on your unit. This is a 2-way street. The manager needs to promote and encourage breaks while the clinical nurse must buy into the fact they should take a break. Next explore opportunities to have per-diem nurses work specific hours to increase staffing levels around break times for all three shifts. Beef up support staff and nursing student presence to help answer call bells while nurses are off the unit. 

Some nurses are great at always getting to break, while others can never seem to get off the unit. Explore why this is happening. Most of my experience as a manger after exploring this leads to time management. Strategies to improve time management can lead to having some free time away from the unit. Routine things need to be taken care of promptly in order to deal with the unexpected. Taking a break needs to be the new norm for these nurses!

Here are some tips for effective time management

Best Pay Practices:

If a nurse does miss a 30 minute lunch or diner break, they must be paid for it. Encouraging and improving conditions for nurses to take breaks is the ultimate goal, however if a nurse simply can't leave their patients they must be paid for this time worked. 

I ask staff to simply fill out a missed meal form to simply allow me to look at trends, patterns, and see it things can be improved. With this being said, some staff simply like to miss meals to collect that extra few hours a week. Not a good strategy, Again this places both you and the patient at risk due to fatigue.

Take your break nurses! After all, we are all only human

 I would like to hear from you!

What are strategies that work for you to get off the floor and have a break! I would love to hear what is working out there so I can pass it on to our fellow nurses. 

Have A Great Story About This Topic?

Tell us how you are able to take breaks! What works and well, what doesn't work?

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