REST BREAKS for Nurses in The ER

  1. Life in our ER is, no doubt, as busy and demanding as it is in yours. We work 12 hour shifts. I love the work. I love the pace. I do not, however, love both for hours on end without breaks.

    We usual can get one thirty minute break. In a recent Charge Nurses meeting, however, our Nurse Manager advised that breaks in the ER will be "allowed," if possible, but are not required.

    HUH?!!

    I voiced my opinion in no uncertain terms, and have since taken the HEAT for it. I called the Labor Board and our local Union to clarify the rules. I've continued to advocate for regular breaks in the ER, to my own hurt, I'm afraid.

    Yesterday, I received word that, due to my "frustration" with the ER, I am 'encouraged' to transfer to another unit.

    Any comments?:uhoh21:
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  2. 40 Comments

  3. by   StuNurseUP
    I thought it was law that in an 8 hour shift a person had to get a 30 min lunch and 2 fifteen minute breaks:angryfire
  4. by   Aneroo
    Yes, it is a labor law (at least in NC). If you work more than an 8 hour shift, you are REQUIRED to take a 30 minute break.
    I've had several nights where I haven't had the chance to take a break, but neither have my co-workers. It's marked in a book by our charge nurse, and we get that time credited back to us in our paychecks. The charge nurse will call the cafeteria, and get us sandwiches, cookies, soda, and chips. We still eat, but it might not be in our usual fashion.

    I get more frustrated at the smokers. If you smoke, don't take too much offense, but I get frustrated at those who make it a priority to go outside to smoke, while others do not get such breaks (or are at least less likely to take them). Hence part of the reason our hospital is going smoke free next year (don't see it happening well, but it's supposed to). :uhoh21:
  5. by   Kidrn911
    I honestly say when it is busy and a break is near impossible, my hospital is really good about ordering food and drink for us on the house. I know it was done at least 20 times last year. My unit actually has a food budget for employees when it is that crazy
  6. by   CoolhandHutch
    our local Union to clarify the rules.
    If you are a under a union contract with your hospital this should be spelled out quite clearly. You then will have grounds to file a grievence if this situation arises. Furthermore, if you are indeed union, this is not a battle for you to undertake; it's your steward's responsibility. In the real world, breaks in the ER are usually long bone and not dinner; that being said, our house supers do a good job bringing food up from the cafe for us or ordering out, depending on the number of fires he/she is putting out. Lastly, check your time card- if you aren't getting your 30 min break, make sure they are paying you for it.
  7. by   ClaireMacl
    Hiya, I am both a current smoker (4 months, bad me!) and an ex non smoker so in my time in the ED, I've seen both sides of the book. I think there are alot of issues and most have come up in my ED too.

    Everyone, but everyone should be entitled to at least 5 minutes out to destress and gather themselves to get back to it. Currently, we are extremely overrun in our department and often don't get breaks that are legally required... personally, I don't complain if they will give a couple of minutes (and it does only take less that 5 minutes to smoke a cigarette even though some people take the piss!) I tend to come back ready to give it my all again. I don't know how it is with you, but we tend to find that even non-smokers tend to disappear for 5-10 minutes from time to time stating they need the loo or something but in reality are really taking the time out needed to keep going just like the smokers. Also, you must take into account that nicotine causes addiction, I'm sure you are aware of the withdrawal symptoms and must know the reaction stress and non rest has on that.

    It's well known in my department that I do take ciggie breaks (the management are keeping an eye on it!) but if I do get a break, I speak to the shift leader before my break and ask if I can take 20 minutes instead of 30 on the off chance that I might be able to get 5 minutes to get a cigarette inbetween.

    Yeah, I know some people do push it too far, but not everyone

    Oh, btw our hospital went non-smoking in July, I know its stricter in the US where nurses can be sacked for smoking just outside the hospital, but we are allowed to go just up from the hospital and the hospital has made no effort to offer smoking staff quitting services... and patients still smoke on grounds despite the ban because there is no way of enforcing it!!!

    Quote from Aneroo
    I get more frustrated at the smokers. If you smoke, don't take too much offense, but I get frustrated at those who make it a priority to go outside to smoke, while others do not get such breaks (or are at least less likely to take them). Hence part of the reason our hospital is going smoke free next year (don't see it happening well, but it's supposed to). :uhoh21:
    Last edit by ClaireMacl on Dec 15, '05
  8. by   scrmblr
    We have a breakroom off of the main ER. Somedays we don't get to go sit down for the entire 30 minutes, but one or two or three of us are often found in the breakroom grabbing a quick 5.

    I think it is important to get our breaks for lunch...But not to compromise pt safety just for that all important 30 minutes.

    Our hospital is completely non-smoking. (pt's too!) so NO cig breaks allowed.

    Our charge nurses try pretty hard to get us all to lunch, but somedays it just isn't going to be a nice 30 minute sitdown. I accept that as life in the ER.
  9. by   JMBM
    As said by others, your state might or might not have a law or regulation covering breaks. However, if you have a union contract, it is certainly set forth in some detail there. If you are not regularly getting breaks, that is a matter for the union to deal with - not you alone. That is why you pay dues. If you are not getting breaks on a regular basis, the department is piling up a huge, unfunded liability, and my guess is that someone in upper management would fix that problem if it was brought to them - again, the union's job. In our department, if we don't get our 30-minute break, we get paid for it on overtime rates. As a matter of practice, there are times when we are slammed and we all pitch in and miss a break. The department typically orders out for pizza or something so we can grab on the run. It doesn't happen alot, but it does happen.
  10. by   pinefarmgirl
    This makes me really angry, and is a constant topic at every hospital. YES- the LAW is that in an 8 hour shift, you MUST get a 30 min meal break, and 2-10 minute breaks. Almost nobody actually gets all that at any hospital I have ever seen. Then you put into this equation managers and supervisors who try to get you to skip or overlook these and keep working so they do not have to cover you. Next big thing- so many people will not take their breaks, and are so ready to call those who want their legal breaks LAZY! This is the worst part. It becomes a character defect if you want to take a lousy 10 minute break and grab a drink, go to the br. Huge point of pride for many nurses- " I never take any breaks, or pee during my shift". Well goody for you! I feel that this is one of the major contributing factors of burnout. When you do see a hospital unit that insists their people take breaks, you see a very happy well tuned team/crew. Not just because they took ten minutes off, but because their supervisors know how to treat people to keep them working well.
    In most places, I can't see that the work will ever stop- it's a continuous onslaught, and not taking a break is not, in the long run, going to make all that much diff in getting things done. This idea of "allowing" employees to take a break is a joke. Laws are great, but more and more employers are realizing that the employees will have a real hard time getting those laws enforced, and are not willing to lose their jobs to make it happen. I wonder if this will ever change??????????
    For me, finding a good supervisor/unit with a good, reasonable team to work with is more important than any other consideration in my job. If you have that, you can work anything out. If you don't, you will always have some kind of unresolved problems.
  11. by   lindarn
    Once again, the "martry marys" of the nursing profession have spoken. If you demand your legal right to a break, you are somehow, less worthy of respect, and the managment harrasses nurses who make it their busines to take breaks that they are LEGALLY ENTITLED TO!!!

    If you are threatened because you insist on taking you breaks, start taking notes, and include any "abnormal events, like having difficulty tansferring a patient, or a difficut admission, problems with other units and staff, (so you have 'ammunition', to reply to complaints by management) make copies of your nurses notes, incident reports, nursing care, take a witness in with you for any meeetings with management and administration. In other words, be proactive and one step ahead of them, anticipating anything that they could try to use to get rid of you.

    Be smart, do not tell anyone that you are "keeping track" of things. But in case the $!&#, hits the fan, just think how happy you employment attorney will be when you show him your evidence (and he, in turn, shows it to the hospital attorney in your defense). Remember, a picture (or report, a paper trail), is worth a thousand words. This advice is to ALL NURSES, who have problems with management, administration, or are planning a union organizing campaign, or anyone who might be having trouble with the powers that be.

    Lindarn, RN, BSN, CCRN
    Spokane, Washington
  12. by   DidiRN
    I could be wrong, but I was thinking the law said you are required to be paid for a 30 minute lunch/dinner not taken, not that they are required to give you a lunch/dinner break.
    That being said, I think it should be mandatory that we get breaks in this kind of field. With working in an area where little to no room for error is a must, working at breakneck speed constantly just invites trouble, mistakes, burnout, etc.
    I loved the quote about "Martyr Mary" lol, I gotta remember that one.
  13. by   JMBM
    Just the other day in the news - Walmart got hit with a $172 million verdict for not giving its employees required rest breaks. Any hospital HR department head who doesn't recognize this potential liability shouldn't be holding the job. LIne supervisors, on the other hand, have an incentive (keeping down costs) to "push" people to skip breaks. The key is then to get this issue up to the level where the true financial cost to the institution will be appreciated. One or two tired nurses won't do it. This is why we pay union dues. Get your union rep on the job, provide her with the data and get her talking to the hospital administration. That is how things change.
  14. by   Marie_LPN, RN
    breaks in the ER will be "allowed," if possible, but are not required.
    That's just assanine for any dept.

    Are they going to provide Foleys for you all on the really busy days?? Sheesh.

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