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‘I feel guilty for taking any time off – even for lunch breaks’

  • 4 Comments

Can you advise this student nurse?

“My placement is always very understaffed, and I feel guilty for taking any time off – even for lunch breaks. I know a lot of the nurses on my placement don’t take real lunch breaks or even many breaks at all – and it makes me feel bad about taking breaks. 

“I know that I have to take care of myself first and that I can’t wear myself out before I even really start as a nurse.

“I also know I’m only a student nurse, so it may not make or break how my placement is running – even while we’re understaffed – but I want to make sure I do my bit to keep things running smoothly. 

“I’m also worried that I will look like I’m lazy if I take breaks while everyone else works so hard.

“Should I just suck it up and work through my breaks or should I still just take my breaks? If I take my breaks, how do I stop feeling so guilty about it?”

Please use the comments section below to share your advice

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • I work on a busy mental health ward we are often understaffed and I have been known to miss breaks especially when things get Hectic so I understand where you are coming from, but it’s not healthy and it’s not what’s best for you or your patients. Staff need breaks not only to grab something to eat but to clear your mind from all the stray thoughts and calm your own thinking. Lack of breaks is bad practice but it’s very easy to slip into no one is going to thank you for missing them and as a student you should be making sure you take yours and remind the qualified staff that sometimes a break gives you the chance to solve a problem or see something in a different light because your no longer panicked about it. Never feel guilty for going on assigned breaks or you will put your own health and your professional practice at risk

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  • I work in a 10 bedded general intensive care unit, of which I regularly take charge. It worries me that there are staff that regularly miss their breaks as they say 'they are too busy'. There are occasions when this statement is true, however, generally it is because of poor time management and lack of planning. While this is not true every where and for everyone, there will be times when it is not possible to take regular breaks.
    Not taking your breaks is not safe practice and will have an impact on staff well being and patient care.
    As a student you are protected and should be encouraged to take regular breaks and you should not be made to feel guilty if those around you feel that they do not have time to take their break. We all feel under pressure to finish a task before taking a break, however there are times when that task can wait until after you are refuelled and refreshed.
    As nurses we are all very guilty of not putting ourselves first. Imagine if the patient was put in the position of a staff nurse and didn't receive fluids, nutrition and rest. Also remember once qualified that that breaks are 'paid back' within your contracted hours agreement, even if you haven't taken one this rule applies.

    Continue to take your breaks and encourage those around you to do the same.

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  • This is really quite concerning for several reasons. It’s one thing to miss one break as qualified nurse as a one off because It was particularly busy on that one day, but it sounds as if the placement you are on has a culture of nurses regularly not taking breaks and looking down on those who do as “lazy”. This is just dangerous. You’re not a superhero. You’re a human being and you’re not lazy for wanting a drink, food and a chance to not think about work for half an hour. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity, not just for you, but for your patients too. Not to scare you, but its not a joke - it’s a proven fact that tired/hungry/stressed nurses make more mistakes, and not having breaks can impact on your ability to care for your patient properly, and worst case scenario a nurse makes a drug error for example, seriously harms or kills a patient, the nurse responsible will be asked if they had their breaks that day, and it’s is their responsibility to ensure they have. However, particularly for you as a student, please please take your breaks. You are supernumerary and you’re there as a learning experience. It is great that you want to help out, but placements who rely that much on students to pad out their numbers are unsafe because think they’re able to manage on the numbers on the board without counting you in, and when you leave they’ll struggle again until the next student comes along, when really they need to hire more staff nurses. It’s not your responsibility to make up for this.

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  • if a fellow student asked you this, what would you say? take your break when its most convenient to take your break, maybe thank your mentor for enabling you to take your break even though its your absolute right to do so, do what you can to lighten your teams' load. Inform the university. its unsafe for people to continually not to take a break.

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