Making the Leap From Shift Work to a Non-Shift Work Mindset

A Nursing vignette, presented as a part of National Nurses Week. 

Debbie Medeiros, CPHIMS
Sr. Director Clinical Systems & Informatics
El Camino Hospital 

Although I’ve been working in clinical system implementations for almost 17 years, I still remember many of my bedside nursing experiences. Each type of work has its rewards and moments where you wonder, “what was I thinking?” As a leader of teams who manage clinical computer applications, one of the most challenging aspects was trying to describe exactly what we did to bedside nurses who were applying for positions in my department. Nurses make great analysts and informaticists, however, the actual work of nursing is very different than the work done for clinical applications. The biggest difference that challenged many nurses was shift work versus non-shift work. Let me explain…as a bedside nurse, I would arrive at the hospital, note my assigned patients, get report, review patient charts, plan my shift work and off I went. At the end of the shift, I’d finish up charting, provide report to oncoming nurses, and any tasks that couldn’t be complete during my shift was passed on to the following shift to complete. This is what I would call “shift work”.

Non-shift work is very different. You may have a plan for the day but depending on what else happens (calls from end users, systems going down, etc.), getting your planned work done can be an extreme challenge. Since many nurses have the shift work mentality, they will either stay late or work weekends trying to finish their tasks. If they are not careful, they will eventually burn out. One of the expectations I set for my team members was making sure they had “time away from work”. This included (on occasion) walking around the office and telling people to “go home”. Sometimes I had to remind them not to send emails or not work late in the evening or over the weekend unless it was an urgent/emergent issue. Of course I got push back, but I reminded them that not everything is priority #1. It can be difficult to remember to take time for yourself when you keep focusing on the big pile of work you need to complete. However, if you don’t take time to do things you enjoy, your work suffers. You lose your creativity, your ability to critically think, your ability to manage stress well decreases and so on. As rewarding as our work is, don’t let it take over your life. Go out and dance, sing, play golf, watch a football game, play hockey, spend time with your kids…whatever makes your heart sing a joyful song. Your boss and your work will be glad that you did!

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