Tuesday, March 01, 2011

the madness guide to happy ER nurses

As y'all know I have been a nurse for MANY (many) years, mostly in the ER. Working in the ER is stressful and gets more stressful every day. Zillions of changes, mean patients, you name it.

How, you might ask, how have I lasted this long? Money. However, I would say the major factor in me staying in the ER, other than my innate need to help humanity (!), is FLEXIBILITY. In our ER, we do self scheduling. We decide when we want to work and hand it in to someone who somehow manages to make everyone happy. We do it by work clusters. The person (another staff nurse)who does our schedule works the same hours as me (9a-9P) and so do the people he makes a schedule for. Every work cluster (7a-7P, 3p-11p,etc) does the same thing. Somehow it all works out.

95% of the people in my ER work 12 hour shifts. There are no rotating shifts. Everybody works a straight shift including nights. This allows more days off.

I have come to the conclusion that in order to survive in an ER, you have to have at least 3 days off in a row, if not more, in a month. Most months I end up with 5-6 days off in a row. As I plow through the other part of the month, I look forward to the time off as a way of coping with the job.

After all my years in the ER, I have concluded if you want to last, you have to have these stretches off. 1-2 days doesn't do it. Day 1 of days off is spent recovering from working the last 2-3 days and decompressing from the job. Day 2 is when you start to forget about it, unless you have to go back to work the next day. Then you really never decompressed. I have the kind of job where the day before I am going to work I can feel myself ramping up to go back. So the day before a work day and the day after are sort of lost.

So managers, if you want happy, long term employees I recommend this:
1) Offer 12 hour shifts
2) Offer straight days, nights, evenings with these 12 hour shifts
3) Let your employees self schedule

This might seem like it would be impossible but it works. It has worked for many years in my ER.

1 comment:

Grizabella said...

I work 12 hour shifts in maternity. But it is just myself and one other so we always get our 3 x 12 7a-7p or 7p-7a shift together and with a nice break between each set. We love it, but the others we work with think that there is no way they could survive the 12 hour shifts, especially nights! Wish we could show them how fantastic it really is.