NO LUNCH??? NO BREAKS??? Is that common in nursing????? - page 3

by CleveRN2008 58,412 Views | 300 Comments

Hi everyone! This topic has been bothering me a lot lately. I would love to know your thoughts and experiences! I am a new RN working on a cardiac unit. Since I have been on this floor, I have observed and experienced... Read More


  1. 0
    Not all hospitals are union, and hospitals do not work like retail establishments with regards to breaks or lunches. I mean, seriously, what do you do...stop in the middle of a patient bath or code blue and say, "Oh sorry, time for my break, be back in 15!!!"

    Some professions are exempt from certain things, however, for patient safety, it's not good to the point where you are working to exhaustion every day.

    The charge nurse shouldn't cover a lunch for everyone in the unit or breaks...if she did then she couldn't do her job.

    Another nurse has to cover for you if you go to the bathroom or get a quick bite to eat or take a 5 minute breather (aka mental health break)...but why do you find this strange on a CARDIAC floor? These patients are sick and anything can go wrong in a minute if someone isn't checking on them.

    It's about time management...working harder to get yourself caught up to a place where someone just has to monitor for a few minutes while you eat. However, on day when you are short staffed, it's not going to be possible.

    In our hospital, nurses can only leave the floor to get something in the cafeteria but they have to come straight back and eat in the breakroom on the floor so they can be pulled in an emergency.
  2. 15
    Quote from masonRN
    This is a very good example of apathy. It is a primary component of self-fulfilling wage slavery. It is sad, but for some it is a facet of their existence they've chosen not to contest.
    The conditions you (the OP) describe are a result of many factors, all of which can be changed; change is not easy. Complaining to your coworkers and chatting on the internet is NOT going to effect change. Filing complaints with the state department of labor, organizing labor, filing safety complaints with the state department of health, contacting the press and reporting Joint Commission are just the items that jump to mind.

    I used to work in a hospital that was similar to what's being described. I left that place...That move brought a notable pay cut
    It is certainly hypocritical to call the posters on this thread apathetic (just say me or Babs0512 for example), stand on a soapbox and tell us how chatting on the internet will do nothing, cite examples of what we should be doing instead, and then explain how you LEFT the same situation and took a "NOTABLE PAY CUT". Essentially, you did absolutely nothing to effect any change, unless you count building up your calves as you ran. It's funny how none of the methods you mentioned seemed to jump to your mind when it was you in those shoes. Instead, you just settled for cheaper shoes. :spin:
    Aurora77, Carrie_MTC, SE_BSN_RN, and 12 others like this.
  3. 0
    I don't get true breaks, either, for most of the time. On nights that are exceptionally crazy, I'll write a "no lunch". But other nights, when the pace is steady, or more relaxed, I don't write it. I figure that the down time I have covers that. As long as I get to eat my meal and hit the restroom, whether I spend 30 min. in the break room isn't that big a deal to me. I figured that would be the case when I became a nurse -- of course I didn't realize quite how much! I've adapted for the most part.

    We get reprimanded if there are *too many* lunch breaks written down. But I haven't encountered any problems with that yet.
  4. 31
    What's a "parent shifter"?

    People choose not to take breaks and go to the bathroom whether they know it or not. I've worked busy med-surg, have had up to 8:1 ratios and still have gotten to go to the bathroom and have scheduled lunch breaks. 15 minute breaks here and there are a blessing, but I don't bother with them (and here in Florida they are not required by law because we are getting paid through them), but along with passing meds, teaching, and other patient care activities, I prioritize a lunch as if it's mandatory and low and behold 99% of the time I get one.

    I have drink lots of water and have an overactive bladder on top of that and not going to the bathroom is self-abuse.

    New grads unfortunately don't take a lot of breaks, including lunch. Sooner or later they come to a moment like you are now and realize that the self-abuse has to stop and self-care is a priority along with patient care. Take a lunch, even if it throws you behind, even if you might be interrupted. Sit down and eat or you will surely burn out.
    Aurora77, annmariern, SE_BSN_RN, and 28 others like this.
  5. 18
    So, this is my take, and what is legal. Staffing should be adequate enough that all nurses are able to step away from their patient assignments and have another nurse assume whatever patient care responsibilities are being left behind. It is supposed to be a 30 minutes AWAY, both physically and mentally.

    This issue exploded on our very busy floor last year, where all nurses were chronically not getting lunch breaks. A letter was written to immediate supervisors describing the unsafe staffing assignments and dangerous lack of breaks. Let's face it, none of us are working at our best when unable to eat or hydrate, ESPECIALLY when working a 12 hour shift. There was no concrete resolution from that meeting, although some attempts made to remedy how to get breaks, ie a "buddy system", where one nurse would be responsible for double the number of patients. Unworkable on our floor. Eventually, a more pointed letter was drafted to the Board of Directors and CEOs of the hospital describing the actual bedside reality. We got some action pretty quickly. Our charge nurse is now no longer assuming a patient load so she can assist in giving breaks more consistently, staffing ratios have been more concretely defined, and we attempt to have a "flex" nurse to help give breaks, assist in emergencies, float the floor to give assistance where needed.

    It is a legal issue, and no hospital wants the public perception of having overworked, fatigued nurses on the edge of blacking out caring for vulnerable patients. There is protection for workers pointing out unsafe working conditions.

    Not only are we now getting our breaks, our overall staffing is better, even in light of the current fiscal crisis. There is the occassional shift where a lunch is missed, when things are exploding. We all step up and expect that sometimes. But the NORM is that we get our lunch. Push the issue of bedside safety. It is real and consumers EXPECT attentive safe nursing attention. It is our responsibility to insure that is what we are able to deliver.
    Aurora77, annmariern, SE_BSN_RN, and 15 others like this.
  6. 0
    Where I work we often don't get lunch let alone breaks (except for the smokers, of course)! I have worked 14-15 hours without a lunch. Our manager could care less. We are usually short-staffed to the point of not having ANYONE to look after your patients. If we are lucky enough to eat, it's at the nurse's station. The only time we don't do that is if the Department of Health is lurking in the hospital
  7. 5
    There are somthing called "labor laws" maybe, if every time you miss a break or meal you call the 1-800 # for you state and REPORT anonymously to the department of health, labor, the hospital/institution will be evaluated/investigated.
    TDCHIM, scoochy, canoehead, and 2 others like this.
  8. 9
    I take my 30 minute lunch every single 12-hour shift, although at different times depending on what's going on. I turn over my pagers to my lunch partner, give brief report, and get off the unit. S/he only responds to unexpected things that have to be done right now, and how many of those are going to come up in half an hour? There's certainly not a constant stream of them. I can always make time to toilet an extra patient of my buddy's, suction somebody or assess a potentially unstable situation. For reference, we work on an acute floor, non-unionized, not in CA.

    I make time to pee throughout the shift :-) It only takes a minute or two, and it takes precedence over everything but patient emergencies. I do not want to abuse my body and honestly, would not want to work in a crappy environment where employees are pushed so hard that they can't take a few minutes to themselves throughout their long days.

    If I were laid off, I would potentially tough it out in a worse working environment (or maybe go wait tables somewhere :-) only as long as necessary to find a decent job, and I'm prepared to take out loans and go back to school. It makes me so mad that eating and using the bathroom are even a question for us.

    I strongly encourage new grads to stay out of abusive work environments. It doesn't have to be that way. You *have to* have standards for yourself even in this day and age, don't jump on the very first gig just because someplace said yes, especially for your very first job. Consider potential workplaces very carefully and never negotiate out a fear.
    Last edit by learning08 on Feb 22, '09
  9. 1
    It definitely happens. I used to work in an OR where nobody got breaks or lunches, and nobody cared. I learned to love Slim-Fast because I could run to the bathroom and drink one real quick. However, where I work now is really good. We all sign out for breaks and lunches and everyone usually gets one. I believe it's a management thing. I remember working on the floor and having to get another nurse to cover me while I'm on lunch. I never had any problem, but our manager insisted that we cover for each other. I'm sorry this is happening to you, that just stinks.
    wooh likes this.
  10. 1
    I ageee with Tweety,
    I have been a nurse for over 16 years, I can count on one hand how many times I didn't get a break in a 12 hour shift, i have worked ICU and stepdown cardiac/surgical floor. There are other workers, as well as other shifts, not everything has to be down on your shift. Yes I agree that sometimes there are days that you just don't have time.
    Faeriewand likes this.


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