12.5 hour shifts, Being a mum, Birth, Breastfeeding, Hospital, Labour , birth, Labour and birth, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, Motherhood, NHS, NHS Systems and processes, Night shifts in the NHS, Obstetrics, Student Midwives, Women's health, Women's rights

Jenny’s mutterings , midwives childcare and 12.5 hour shifts ….

This blog is for #70MidwifeBloggers and I was inspired to write it by my two grown up children . When I look at them and the way they treat other people I always think “you did good Jen”

I have worked in the NHS for almost 40 years , so I was IN IT for ten years before I became a parent .

When my daughter was 6 months old I returned to work as a Ward Sister on a medical ward in Oldham Hospital (now Penine Acute Trust) . Part of the reason for my return to work was to prove to myself that I could be a good mummy and a good nurse. I have always liked a challenge and do I regret my decision ? Yes and No is the answer .

When I first thought about child care for my daughter there was no “on site” hospital nursery. Both my parents had died when I was younger. To go back to work meant I was driving 25 miles each way to start at 7.30am – was I mad ?

I was blessed – I found Gaynor a former nurse who totally understood my predicament. I managed to get my daughter ready put her in the car drop her off at Gaynor’s house and pick her up after work . I chose Gaynor as she was close to the hospital and I instantly connected with her . When I was on a late shift which ended at 21.00 I’d get to Gaynor’s to find my daughter ready for bed and a breastfeed and then I’d feed her at Gaynor’s house , pop her into the car (yes I had a car seat ) and drive home . Lots of times I arrived to find washing done for me / a meal to eat / a cup of tea / a hug and a huge welcome . Gaynor was also a mum and her children loved my daughter as much as she loved them . One particular thing about Gaynor was that her mum and dad owned a nursing home ( we are talking traditional family run home full of love , activities and good food – this was 1989)

Gaynor regularly took my daughter to the nursing home with her and she made the residents day – I also went to the home and felt like I’d grown a new family – his lucky we were .

My son was born 5 years later and I was also lucky with his childcare – he went to Maureen who I met when I had to find childcare in a new area to start my midwifery in 1991 and she became Auntie Maureen to both my children .

My blog is really to raise awareness of working mothers and fathers in the NHS and my question is this —

“Do 12 hour shifts have a negative impact on families NHS workers family love and home dynamics of NHS workers ? In fact if someone works a 12 hour shift they probably get up at 6am and get home around 10pm or later – that’s 16 hours of being up and active / put another day into that = 32 hours then three long days together = 48 hours – do you see where I’m coming from ?

If a child does not see its own parent for three whole days does it have attachment implications ? Has anyone done any research on this ?

IMO the 12 hour shift is seen as a money saving initiative for the NHS – 6 shifts covered in three days – bargain !!

However a bargain ain’t a bargain unles you can prove it saves money.

I hear both many sides to the arguments about 12 hour shifts but I also hear of staff who work 12 hour shifts “pacing” themselves , resting more on shift and I wondered if those working 8 hour shifts ever thought of “pacing” themselves at work ?

More research and evidence is coming out about long shifts , that they can be a contributing factor in thyroid disease, cancer , heart disease , burn out and long term sick . Perhaps it’s time to analyse data on nursing and midwifery sick leave to see if the NHS sick leave has improved or worsened since 12 hour shifts became a “thing” .

I have juggled child care most of my children’s lives and thank fully it’s been ok – even the time I caught one so called childminder pushing my daughter across a busy road by placing my three year old daughter across a pram!! I was actually a driver on that road (working as a community Midwifery student ) , so I went straight to her house and removed my daughter then & there . I rang my community manager in tears and she gave me two days of compassionate leave to help me arrange new childcare, this is how I stumbled onto Maureen – she embraced both my children into her family and like me she loved art and baking , so my children saw her home as an extension of mine .

Anyway I’d just like the NHS to seriously consider why going back to short shifts might be the answer – it also costs more to pay a 12.5 hour Midwife as if she works both Saturday and Sunday her after tax salary can be from £600 upwards more than someone working short shifts – so think again NHS

The 4 days that the long shift staff do not cover need to be covered – whereas when we all worked 8 hour shifts some staff would volunteer to stay late – this is impossible and dangerous on a long day .

thank you for reading

Yours in love and light ,

Jenny ❤️

Birth, Midwife, Midwifery, Midwifery and birth, New parents, Newborn, NHS, Night shifts in the NHS, Obstetrics, Patient care, Postnatal care, Psychology, Student Midwives, Women's health

How to keep your ‘Midwifery Passion’

Ideas to help midwives through NIGHT SHIFTS the past couple of weeks I’ve been on night shifts – hence my temporary disappearance from Twitter . I have been forced to practice self-care and be mindful of my own health and wellbeing in order to not only survive night shifts but also to ensure the women in my care were kept safe. A huge part of my role  is to support women and families and also to be a team player by helping and listening to my colleagues of all disciplines. Factor into this the additional pressure like teaching my body to sleep in the day and stay up all night – all this has an adverse effect on causes on my hormones and body  physiology – so it must be the same for any midwife working the night shift.

 I try my best to visit women who may still be on the postnatal ward (ones that I have cared for in labour or met antenatally) to offer a debriefing session and go through parts of the birth they may have forgotten- I find this helps me as much as it helps them . Women become tired during long nights of labour and may forget their own strength during labour and birth so I like to remind them. As midwives we must make a firm relationship foundation with the woman and her birth partner(s) and we must also display  love for our job and show it’s something we do because we enjoy it not because we have to – when did you last show that you love your job?  Women want to know that you care about them and getting food and drink in the middle of the night is a real challenge but I take it firmly onboard . I scour the fridges for left over unopened  in date sandwiches- dash to the vending machine to buy a packet of fruit pastilles or a small bar of chocolate , offer my pre-packed fruit salad, make toast and encourage food in labour – women use on average 150 kcal an hour in labour and it’s important to explain why you are encouraging eating .  Women don’t want to face a labour with a midwife who hasn’t slept or who is complaining about being at work . My philosophy the past two weeks has been to

  • Get some sunlight every day before bed
  • Eat a meal before work that will sustain me through the night – a balance of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables
  • Laugh with colleagues – I am quite well known ay work for my gangnam style dance so one night I was on the postnatal ward I danced in the office – the future midwives face was picture !!
  • Understand why I may have bouts of moodiness
  • Speak to a friend every other day
  • Walk my dog pre-bed and pre-work to ensure I am getting exercise and fresh air
  • Reduce my screen time – that includes Google and Twitter – I am on screen time at work with the maternity system online and screen time can affect our circadian rhythm.

Don’t underestimate how hard it is for me to get in from work and drive to the beach – I struggle, but I have noticed a definite change in myself during these nights and I am sure its because I have exercised prior to sleeping . I have also used some aromatherapy and mindfulness (which I do every single day – nights or days )

I prepared my fridge – chicken , vegetables , pre-packed fruit portions , cheese for protein in the night , and faced my dislike of drinking water . I googled jet-lag and circadian rhythm to help me face up to how my body might react and went in for the positive approach . I took the decision to walk on the beach with my Labrador puppy Buddie post each shift and eat my favourite breakfast sat outside my favourite cafe before I went to sleep. These positive  activities helped me to switch off from my shift , gave me a sense of wellbeing and also helped me to interact with others before I became a hermit for the day . Once home in bed, all curtains were closed and all lights switched off – as a visual hint to ‘popper inners’ those friends of mine who I adore as they pop in to visit me unannounced and I do love that but not on night shifts. I also prayed that my neighbours would be quiet and that their dog wouldn’t bark too much – it worked !!

Night shifts are special for midwives , the hustle and bustle of the hospital is turned down , the ward round is vanquished, the tea trolley is ever present and I can drink tea in the birth room with the families .

After night shifts it’s ok to feel tired and nap in the day – listen to your body carefully . Take time to recover post nights – don’t push your body beyond its limits thinking you are doing it a favour – you aren’t !

I’d like to dedicate this blog to all the midwives who work night shifts – and especially Olivia and Jude as they often discuss the effects of nights with me –  thank you to all NHS nightworkers  for all you do .

Further reading and resources 

information on The BODY CLOCK 

What is sleep drive ? Sleep drive and your body clock

Try a few of my ideas and see if they help your night shifts – I hope they do .

With kindness & midwifery love ❤️

Your friend Jenny

XxX