Firstly, no, I won’t do your night shifts for you. But thank you for asking.
To all those who have taken the time to comment or contact me, to share your own stories of critically ill children and at times heartbreaking loss, my husband and I have read each and every one of them and are touched beyond words.
Around the clock availability of experienced doctors, nurses and paramedics is essential to providing quality emergent heath care. This in no way, however, diminishes the significant physical, mental and social burden of working medium to long term night shift. My article was intended not as an exhortation to suck it up and work when we’re told to, but an acknowledgement of a necessary evil, and a reminder that “What we do matters” (Thank you Mel).
Compared to other industries, OHS support of healthcare shift workers is poor. We can improve this, at an individual and systems level, through;
- Being proactive in managing our own sleep, nutrition, activity levels and general wellness while working shift work.
- Best practice rostering which prioritises physical and social needs of staff, not the organisation.
- Better staff education on sleep hygiene, drowsy driving, and reducing the sequelae of shift work.
- A cultural change that acknowledges the inherent difficulties of night shift and sees structured on-shift napping not as ‘sleeping on the job’, but a clinically proven way to improve alertness, mood and cognitive functioning.
- Appropriate financial remuneration for working night shift, especially for senior staff. Currently in Victoria we receive 25% shift loading. Mel Herbert from EM:RAP recently proposed a 50-100% load for emergency physicians working night shift in the United States. (I’m sorry, I just can’t help myself. I love you Mel.) Food for thought.
Take care my fellow night warriors. See you at #TeamNightshift. (Starting next run on Monday. Sigh.)