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NO LUNCH??? NO BREAKS??? Is that common in nursing?????


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 first hand how many of the nurses do NOT get a break during their 8 and 12 hour shifts. If we do take a break, we have to find someone on the floor who can cover our typically 4-5 patients. Our charge nurses do NOT cover lunches and our parent shifters are not used for this, either. There have been many days when I went home after working 13 plus hours and not sitting down once or being able to use the bathroom.

Is this COMMON in the nursing profession? According to wage and hour federal laws, we are entitled to a break.

This frustrates me as I think we are all entitled to some time away and I do not feel it is our responsibility to find our own coverage.

What are you guys finding out in the nursing community? Do you swipe a "no lunch?" Is this even SAFE? Technically, this employer is violating wage and hour laws by not freeing the nurses up for a break.

Please share your thoughts and experiences with me. I think this practice is wrong and I would like to implement change...I just do not know how.

Thanks for your thoughts.

jmgrn65, RN

Specializes in cardiac/critical care/ informatics. Has 16 years experience.

It happens occasionaly, but it shouldn't be happening everday. Something is not right with that.


Has 18 years experience.

No way. Our unions would pitch a fit. We cover each other and are assigned first or second break. If we are slammed and we miss a break, we submit a voucher and are paid double time for the missed meal break.

Uh, go to the toilet. No way would my bladder last 13 hours. UTI? Kidney Stones?


Specializes in Med Surg, LTC, Home Health. Has 29 years experience.

It certainly is common. That is, unless youre in California. Out there they have ratios (on your unit you could have no more than 4 pts ever). Thanks to those ratios they are not allowed to cover each other for lunch or they would go over the ratio for those 30 min. So they have special nurses that come in just to relieve the others for their lunches, and thus, they get their lunch breaks every single shift. It's like a different country in California for nurses. In the rest of this country, you eat as you work many times, if at all, even though it's a 12 hour shift. We dont have such vocal nurses who demand their rights. They just take it lying down like good little downtrodden employees.

Edited by BradleyRN

Thanks for your thoughts, guys. Yeah, I definitely believe that this is a HUGE HUGE problem since the majority of my floor has to skip lunches due to patient volume and work load. I suppose that is why unions can positively impact nursing. If we swipe a "no lunch"... we often get a reprimanding about it. If they are so worried about us not having a lunch, who don't our charge nurses and managers come and relieve staff for lunches? Instead, they sit in their offices and do not get involved in hands on care. FRUSTRATING.


Specializes in Post Anesthesia. Has 30 years experience.

To clock out -"no break" we are required to notify the supervisor during the shift that we will be unable to break, give adequate (in her opinion) reason why and fill out appropriate forms when asked to document that the "no break" was approved. I will spend my entire break arranging to clock out "no break". Not to mention, if you do clock out "no lunch/no break" it will end up in your evaluation as evidence of poor time management- "subject to progressive discipline including suspension of dismissal". The end result 90% of the time we do take a break/lunch, but 85% of the time it is on the unit , managing our patients, and answering the phone, charting our VS...

Leave the unit for 30-60min- not once in 20 years. Don't ya love Nursing?!


Has 10 years experience.

I don't get a break, but I get disciplined if we clock punch "no meal" so what I do is essentially work for 30 minutes for free. It's wrong, and yes, it is illegal, but I know I can't change it and keep my job.

Working without breaks is a sign of poor management. No one should work for free or without lunch. I would keep data on the number of no break shifts. After 2 months turn the data into state wage and hour investigators. Rolling over and taking it is wrong both for you and your coworkers.

Valerie Salva, BSN, RN

Has 19 years experience.

I have worked a number of nursing jobs where it has been impossible to take a break- no matter how organized you are or how hard and fast you work one thing after another comes up and you can't do it.

I worked one job in which I only took maybe 4 or 5 lunches in the course of two years of working there.

In some units, the "no breaks" thing is so ingrained into the culture of the unit that anyone who attempts to take a break is viewed as a slacker.

I have the same question as you too. I worked at Wal-mart and Home Depot while going to nursing school and my supervisors said you have to take a 15 minutes break for every four hours you are working. If the employee is not taking the break, the company can be fined for not letting their employees taking break. I wonder why nurses working 12 hours shift is only allow 30 minutes break and that's it. Is the rule different for hospital compared to retail businesses?


Specializes in Med surg, Critical Care, LTC. Has 20 years experience.

Unfortunately, it is very common. Especially in non-unionized hospitals. I work in such a place. I use to work 12 hour shifts in the ER, 90% of the time, without meal breaks. I work PACU now. 8 hour shifts. It happens at least 2 -3 times per week. It happened Friday.

No one to complain too, just the way it is. We are NOT valued, we are replaceable. There isn't a nursing shortage around here.

Think twice about nursing as a career, I wish I had.



Specializes in Medical Surgical. Has 15 years experience.

Why CERTAINLY we can take a break. But if we do, there is nobody to take care of our patients because we are always stretched to the max. In additiion, the one to two hours overshift everyone has to put in to finish their paperwork will expand by the time spent on the break, so you can count on going home even later. Who needs that? I never take a break on the floor, and certainly not a lunch period, unless you count shoving a sandwich in with one hand while charting with the other. And OF COURSE I could put in for no time off, if I wanted to hear about it in evaluations. No thanks.


Specializes in Post Anesthesia. Has 30 years experience.

Unfortunately, it is very common. Especially in non-unionized hospitals......

I work for a unionized hospital and in the last contract we negotiated 4-15min breaks(up from 3) and a 30min lunch for all 12hr shift RNs. Unfortunately the union cannot find a way of forcing the hospital to provide staff to cover these breaks. They may as well have gotten the hospital to agree to 2-15min breaks every hour- why not, as long as they don't have to provide staff to provide relief.

Penelope_Pitstop, BSN, RN

Has 13 years experience.

I work 11-7, many times with no PCT or floating charge, so sometimes I make time to pee and that's it. However, I usually make time to at least warm up my food and scarf it down. Does it take half an hour? No. But that's fine by me. I figure I get enough down time over the eight hours to add up to at least half an hour. Some nights I am bored because no one needs help and my patients are fine. Then there are nights that I find myself running from 2300 until 0800, then finally clock out at that time. Because of that, I don't write in the exception book that I didn't have time for a break. If it was happening every night, this would be a different story.

No one to complain too, just the way it is. We are NOT valued, we are replaceable. There isn't a nursing shortage around here.

Think twice about nursing as a career, I wish I had.


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.

Put another way: a person who refuses to be a doormat is much more difficult to walk all over.

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. There is a little joke about the place, that goes some like "Did you hear about the nurse who was found dead in her car? It was just a few miles from here. They knew right away that she worked here because her bladder was full and her stomach was empty."

I left that place and went to an institution with much more favorable opinion towards its employees. The place I left has been laying people off; the one I work at now has laid off no one. That move brought a notable pay cut, but I made a concerted effort to see the big picture; and I feel like the decision I made for myself was an excellent one.

That's a part of the discussion that bears repeating: the decision I made for myself.

The next generation will not charge us for what we've done; they will charge and condemn us for what we've left undone.--Mother Jones

This is rather discouraging. A full break is one thing- but no bathroom break?

I am a nursing student, and I maybe starting a pct position at a hospital. I look out for things like this now, because I want to be able to get in with a good hospital that will allow me to grow, and take breaks. LOL.

My question is this do you find this in union vs non union environments?

I ask this question because currently I am in a non union state (right to work state GA) and I am seriously thinking about relocating either going back home (NY) or moving to a union state, I want to have a good experience in nursing and I changed to this career to be able to have stability and all. I would hate to go through all this schooling and leave accounting to find out I have jump from the frying pan to the oven

Welcome to nursing Cleve.

Better get used to working for 12.5 hours with a full bladder and an empty stomach. That is the reality of working as a nurse in a hospital.

In my experience, hospital nurses almost NEVER get to take their 30 minute meal break. Instead, if they are lucky, they can perhaps shove a sandwich in their mouth while they catch up on their documentation. However, in many hospitals, if a nurse is caught eating food at the nurses station, they can be written up. In such places, it is safer to go hungry.

Going to the bathroom to relieve a full bladder means there is nobody else to watch YOUR patients. Everyone else is too busy trying to take care of their own. Trust me, you'll get so used to holding it in for 12 hours, you won't notice it anymore.

And yep, in most hospitals, if you swipe "no meal break" at the end of your shift, so you can get paid for all your 12.5 hours of work, instead of just getting paid for 12 hours of work, you will most likely get into trouble with your nurse manager. Best to avoid ******* them off these days.

This current recession and economic crisis means the abuse of nurses will continue to worsen. Most nurses are scared to death that they may be laid off these days. Nobody is going to complain about being forced to skip breaks, if that means they get to keep their RN job and their RN paycheck.