The elusive lunch break. Is it an urban myth where you work? Something you’ve heard about happening elsewhere, but you’ve never seen or experienced for yourself?
That can change. Here’s your guide for instituting a lunch break movement in your unit.
1. Hold an in-service to discuss the importance of a true lunch break
Nurses who have a break during their shift report improved alertness and ability to handle stress. This translates into safer patient care and a healthier work environment. Presenting some facts to your colleagues will help make your case.
- Hospital Staff Nurses’ Shift Length Associated with Safety and Quality of Care
- One-Hour Off-Unit Meal Breaks
- Using Maslow’s Pyramid and the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators to Attain a Healthier Work Environment
2. Get your management team on board
Support from administration is essential to ensure follow through with adequate breaks. If possible, invite your managers to an in-service. Otherwise, schedule a meeting and hand them a brief write-up using evidence based research.
3. Make a pact
Have everyone sign a pact that delineates exactly what the expectations will be.
4. Assess and address barriers
Every unit has a different workflow and a different team dynamic. What barriers do you think might get in the way? Continually assess those and see if you can find some lasting solutions. One surprising barrier that was discovered during a pilot program from MGH was resistance from the nurses. Consider that in your planning.
Once you’ve paved the way for a lunch break revolution, these tips will ensure that you get the most out of every minute.
1. Plan unit lunch breaks at the start of the shift
Things might change, but the lunch pilot program at MGH proved that planning lunch schedules at the start of the shift increased the chances of everyone getting that much needed break.
2. Leave the unit
Stepping away from the unit separates you from the demands of the job.
Many nurses fall into the trap of doing everything themselves. We don’t want to burden others, or we want to maintain control, or we feel that we are the only ones who will do it right. But learning to delegate appropriate tasks will free you up to do your job better, and that includes being able to take a true break.
4. Stay off of your smartphone
You finally get to sit down and breathe. But if pulling out your smartphone is the first thing you do, you’re just going from one distraction to another. Take some time to talk with a coworker, eat mindfully, and just breathe.
5. Take a walk
Walk a loop around the main floor, get out of the elevator a few levels from your unit and walk the stairs, or best of all, get outside for a brisk walk around the hospital. Walking can help refresh you mentally and physically.