You may find yourself on a NHS Labour ward at approximately 7am one morning . Everyone is assembling for morning handover . Over the shoulders is being lifted up into bobbles and held back by clips. Pens, hand-creams, mints , note books , mini hand gels all squeezed into powerful pockets. The “not allowed” mobiles are hidden from plain sight “just in case my son/daughter’s school need me” or to “google something”
Some night shift midwives sit in the office desperate to get home – they look worn out and you want to hug them saying “you will go home on time” but you know it’s a lie Other midwives are out of sight – they remain “with woman” in rooms praying that the handover will go smoothly with minimal interruptions. They want the transition from one midwife to another to be compassionate, woman centred, slow and not hurried .
“Don’t forget the midwife on the birth centre – the woman she’s midwifing is in the pool and about to give birth any minute” says the maternity support worker as she leaves . “Has that Midwife had a break?” – “Not sure” comes the reply.
Drs hang around to chip in with their findings and recommendations as well as chomping on leftover unappetising snacks from the tea trolley. The wheeled aluminium “redeployed” dressing trolley cocoons several slices of curled up toast covered with re solidified butter and cups of cold tea in a hard steel exterior as if to say “this wasn’t my original job”
Seats are hard to come by and woe betide the future midwife who gets a chair before a senior Midwife . Some staff arrive late and hide just behind the door pretending they’ve been there all along – but they did go home late last night . Not one manager in sight .
There are comments circulating “I didn’t leave until 10pm last night!! ” “I’ve only had one day post nights now I’m back on days” “my son is poorly but I’ve sent him to school” “how is ***** in room 2?” “who is in theatre ?”
The labour ward lead’s face demands silence – report starts 3 minutes late – you can taste the angst .
The night staff are supposed to finish their shift approximately 15 minutes after the day shift start theirs . The night shift rarely leave on time and luckily someone has the foresight to recognise that the maternity support workers can go home as their reinforcements have arrived to take over – they like the new shift midwives and Drs smell of new freshly applied deodorant . Many perfumes and aftershaves mingle and brighten up the stale office air. The virtual RHS of the NHS in one tiny space.
Now do the math -for one lead Midwife to hand over the cases and care of 8-16 women to the other in just 5 minutes (depending on the different labour wards in the nhs ) so that the day team can split and go to their allocated families, THEN have another more detailed handover (but VERY similar in principal to the one in the handover room) is nigh on impossible- in fact it is INCROYABLE.
So many night staff leave late – some have many miles and hours to drive or travel in a post nights shift state of mind in order to reach the comfort of their own slumber stations. Some wisely choose to pay to sleep in hospital accommodation as they daren’t risk driving. Others travel as they don’t want to be away from home , they need to be up at 2.30pm to collect their children or their children’s children from school and then possibly cook dinner then prepare themselves for their third or fourth night shift .
Staff leave but not before putting their “time owing” in the designated book – it’s not paid you see – even thought leaving late is beyond their control . This is the NHS
So what’s the solution ? I’m not sure there even is one. If you compare the way office workers start their day there is a great disparity happening between humans who work.
It’s about time staff handover had a shake up – be punctual, be succinct , keep your opinions out of report , respect ALL. Allow each midwife to handover each women / family she/he is caring for with the back up of a written SBAR and encourage the lead midwife to take a step back . Someone somewhere must have an idea ??
It’s a handover state of mind .
We are all leaders
Thank you for reading
Jenny The M ❤️©