Naps during your breaks: could it make long shifts safer?

Trust encourages nurses to treat breaks as critical rest time, particularly on night shifts

Trust encourages nurses to treat breaks as critical rest time, particularly on night shifts

Illustration showing a clockface with a person resting on one of the hands. Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation supports nurses napping on breaks during long shifts as a safeguarding principle.
Picture: iStock

Naps during breaks are being encouraged as a 'safety intervention' for nurses at one trust in South-West England.

The approach is one of a series of principles intended to safeguard staff working long shifts, recently agreed by nurses and union representatives at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Promoting safety for nurses who prefer long shifts

Chief nurse and director of quality Steve Hams said the trust decided not to implement 12.5-hour shifts as standard due to concerns about nurse fatigue and patient safety, but wanted to ensure nurses who prefer to do long shifts had a safe way to do so.

'We recognised some nurses want to do them to support their work-life balance, [so we asked] how could we safeguard those nurses that choose to do 12-hour shifts to protect them and patients,’ he said.

Mr Hams said the trust encourages nurses to view napping during breaks, particularly on night shifts, as perfectly acceptable and a safety intervention.

Rebranding breaks as critical rest time

He said there was a perception of breaks being an informality – time to read a magazine and have a cup of tea, but also a time when nurses might be disturbed by others – rather than critical rest time.

'We are rebranding our breaks because nurses were telling us they were constantly interrupted on breaks and felt they couldn't say no,’ he said. ‘We want breaks to be considered an important safety intervention.'

Other guiding principles at the trust include working no more than three consecutive long shifts, having easy access to hydration at nurses’ stations, and regular review of any shift pattern changes at ward level.

The trust hopes the emphasis on nurses’ well-being will help boost its recruitment and retention efforts.

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