Running towards danger

I have always been a cautious person, I like to think about things, look before I leap and often not leap at all! In fact at a recent family trip to one of those tree top adventure courses I was the one who opted out of the Tarzan swing and went the long, but safer, way around.  I also recall when my children were young we took a trip to The Needles which involved a rather steep ski lift descent during which my son said to me “mummy can you stop squeezing me now” … it seemed I was being overly cautious about the risk of him falling out of the seat! My caution has often been the source of amusement in our family, I don’t mind as I quite like being the cautious one (it’s a mum thing) but last night I was watching TV and I came across “Ambulance” and it caused me to reflect on caution.


For those of you who have not seen it “Ambulance” is one of those fly on the wall documentaries where a camera crew follow a day (or night as the case was last night) in the life of interesting people.  “Ambulance” follows the working lives of some of the crew of West Midlands Ambulance Service.  In this particular episode multiple crews got a call to say there had been a major incident and 3 people were already dead … there was some initial speculation over the incident at first and the word “bomb” was used.  Nevertheless the ambulance crews put on their blue lights and drove to the scene.  I was so in awe of the courage shown by the crews – they had no idea what they were heading into, they were literally running towards danger to help those in need.  As it turned out it was a devastating traffic collision with multiple fatalities – but regardless the crews earned my utmost respect.


This got me thinking about my own actions, particularly within my nursing career … do I ever run towards danger? Would I? The closest I have ever come to “danger” was when I was student nurse back in the 1990’s and I was out with some friends, it was 2am and we had just left a night club when a young chap was stabbed and I immediately ran to assist him.  I administered first aid and waited with him until the ambulance and police arrived.  I can only describe it as an automatic response – someone needed help and I knew how to help, so it stood to reason that I should step forward.

But perhaps it’s not just danger that we run towards as nurses? Perhaps we also run towards adversity? I think that maybe this is more common – when the emergency buzzer goes off at work don’t we all run? We never know what we are running towards but we are aware of the simple fact that it’s an adverse situation … and yet here we all are, throwing caution to the wind and running hell for leather towards it … so that we can use our expertise to help someone in need.


I remain in awe at the courage of the crews in “Ambulance” and I also remain cautious. I will always be the person who takes the photo of my family upside down on an amusement park ride but at the same time I know that I too will run towards danger and adversity if someone is in need – it’s who I am…. I am a nurse!

Inspire and be inspired

The last few weeks have flown by in a flurry of tweets and blogs it seems – ever since we first launched #70nursebloggers and #70midwifebloggers I have found myself attached to my computer … in a good way!

70 nurse

The idea behind #70nursebloggers and #70midwiifebloggers is simple … inspire 70 nurses and 70 midwives to get blogging (you can read more about it HERE) I don’t know what I expected when we (by we I mean me and Sam Sherrington with help and support form the fab people at NHS England) thought about bringing what was essentially an idea from a tweetchat into reality … I guess it was the hope that we would get somewhere close to 70 nurses and 70 midwives blogging .. and yes we are getting there as we now have 39 nurse bloggers and 18 midwife bloggers ! Which is amazing in such a short space of time.  What iI didn’t expect, and what hit me right between the eyes, was how overwhelmingly inspired I have been by the blogs.

70 midwife

As the person who is collating the Twitter lists, responding to the tweets and collating the Twitter moments I have felt honour bound to read each and every blog post …. but this has not been arduous … far from it in fact! What has astounded me is the breath of the nurses and midwives who have put pen to paper, we have had people from the UK, the USA and Nigeria take part, and they have come from all walks of nursing and midwifery.  There have been blogs that have informed me, blogs that have shared projects, blogs that have shared a single day or a single thought, blogs that have made me laugh and blogs that have made me cry.  The one thing that all of the blogs have had in common is the ability to energise and encourage me in a way that only nurses and midwives can.

The single most important reason as why I find so much value in blogging and tweeting is the people you meet – it’s such a fantastic way in which to surround yourself with the very best of nursing and midwifery!

Screenshot 2018-05-02 17.30.42


Please don’t just take my word for it … have a read of the blogs .. i promise you won’t regret it .. you will be inspired! Here they are:

#70nursebloggers…. blogs so far 

#70midwifebloggers…blogs so far

And if you are yet to write your blog post then why not take the first step and be inspired to inspire others.

encourage 1


Blogging, nursing and lots of bicycle analogies!

Whilst helping a nurse friend to get blogging this week I noticed that my first blog post on this website was 5 years ago … although I had an anonymous blog before this one .. this blog marked my decision to be me in social media.  Back then I both tweeted and blogged under “Agency Nurse” I didn’t use my name, not because I was doing anything wrong but because I wasn’t very confident in social media and being a nurse in this space …perhaps not revealing my real name was akin to having stabilisers on your first bicycle, it gave me confidence and helped me to practice getting my voice just right.

bicycle-14863_640Back then things were very different, there were next to no blogging nurses, hardly any tweeting nurses and no NMC Social Media Guidance.  Blogging as a nurse was not really a “thing.” I recall, when i first set up my blog, reading through my copy of the NMC Code and checking off each point to make sure that I wasn’t compromising myself as a nurse by blogging … I was nervous as there was no one for me to copy or emulate, no one to show me the way, but, nevertheless I took a deep breath and published my first post.

I was really not sure what to expect – perhaps I hoped, (

to carry on with the cycling theme that I seem to have started,) to be an instant “Tour de France” type hit, find lots of other bloggers, for blogging to be taken up by every nurse that ever nursed and for blogging to be the best thing since sliced bread (or a red bicycle) for nursing.


Of course the reality was more like this:


It felt like I was on a journey all by myself … and it felt like that for a long time!

At this point you may be wondering why I kept going …. well mostly for me.  Quite early on i found that I liked blogging.  It helped me to reflect, to organise thoughts, to develop ideas and to challenge thinking.  But mostly it has been about moving forward and pushing the boundaries and by being determined, by working to raise the profile of how social media can help nurses and nursing I hope that this ultimately helps nursing to keep it’s balance … cue next bicycle analogy:


Slowly I found more nurse bloggers, slowly I found that more people read my blogs (maybe it was because I got a little better) slowly I found that people began to comment and quote my blogs and slowly I felt that we started to move forward.

Blogging can do so much for nurses and nursing….. but in the main it can give us a voice, and we can use that voice to share ideas, experiences, research, thoughts, reflections, resources and so much more.  This in turn, due to the global nature of social media, makes who we are and what we do more visible …. and thats got to be a good thing.

So my stabilisers are definitely off, I’ve been blogging as me (and not anonymously) for quite sometime now and have clearly found myself helping other nurses to find the value in blogging.  Today see’s the launch of #70nursebloggers and #70midwifebloggers, backed by CNO Jane Cummings, this initiative blossomed from a tweet by Sam Sherrington where she suggested that we could encourage more nurses and midwives to get blogging by challenging 70 nurses and midwives to blog for the NHS’s 70th Birthday celebrations.  Read more about it HERE …. but this is my blog …. encouraging you …. yes YOU to get blogging.  You may need some stabilisers, it may not be quite the Tour de France to start with … but keep moving forward and you will find value in blogging.

As for me I am thinking it may be time for one of these:


(Mostly because I kinda gotta keep going with the whole bike thing now, right up to the bitter end of this blog post … for which, dear reader, I humbly apologise!)

And as for the friend I was helping (way back at the start of this blog and before the bicycle stuff got in the way) you can read her first blog HERE



The positive side of leaving digital footprints

Being a nurse who advocates social media I often come across doubters – those people who say that nurses shouldn’t use social media on a professional basis as it will damage their reputation and that of their organisation, those who doubt that social media can do good and those who firmly believe that as nurses we should NEVER set foot in social media spaces (usually what these people say is accompanied with undertones of consequences of biblical proportions!) These social media doubters used to be many in number but over the years I have seen a decrease in their numbers … however they do seem to becoming more adamant! I listen politely and then point out the converse view, that perhaps by NOT engaging in social media we are damaging our reputations and the reputations of their organisations…. What would happen if you Googled an organisation and found nothing??? A bit weird huh? And I think that we are fast approaching a time when if we Google an individual and find nothing this will also ring some alarm bells.

It’s 2018 not 1918 … our lives are becoming increasingly integrated with our digital spaces, and everywhere we go on the old world wide web we leave a digital footprint … and this is quite often seen as a bad thing, something we should be cautious of, something we need be mindful of and perhaps even strive to eradicate. I have often shared the video below about Digital Footprints … it’s a bit dramatic and really does make you think … but it’s a bit one sided in that it explains the doom and gloom and not the bright side.

Whilst I agree to a certain extent that we should be mindful of the footprints we leave in digital spaces I wonder if perhaps we are missing a trick.  I think that we often forget that our digital footprints are in our control – they are not something that happens to us … we can craft and nurture our footprints and make them look how we want them too.  By engaging professionally in social media spaces we can use it to help us build networks, professionally develop and advance our careers as nurses.


The first step is to see yourself how the world sees you … Google yourself! Do you like what you see? Is there anything to see? If you want to change what you see … you can ! It’s up to you.  Simple things like:

  • Use your real name in social media accounts – yes, this is contrary to what we teach our children but this is about people seeing you and creating a positive digital footprint
  • Including professional looking photos as your avatars – again contrary to what we tell our children to do but remember that this is a professional space
  • Using multiple social media – for example using Twitter and writing a blog or setting up a Facebook group and a YouTube Channel
  • Use evidence and research in your social media spaces – don’t leave evidence at the door just because it’s social media
  • Be an active participant in your online networks – jump in, join in, ask questions, talk to your peers
  • Create content – write blogs, make videos, create inforgraphics etc
  • Share the part of you that you want the world to see – remember you are in control of this
  • Feel free to question, disagree and challenge in a constructive and respectful way – it is possible to disagree and still remain professional
  • Know the NMC social media guidance and adhere to it and advocate professionalism online – be an active role model

digital footprint v2

As nurses we do need to be cautious but we also need to be courageous, taking positive steps and crafting our digital footprints can be both empowering and advantageous for individuals, organisations and nursing.



Evidence based tea

This blog has been rattling around in my head for a few weeks now, mainly because I wanted to find the right words to share my thinking.  Sometimes I feel that we have to be careful with our words so that we don’t get misinterpreted .. I hope that I have chosen the right words and I am sure that my caution will become clear as your read on.


A little while ago whilst working a clinical shift I seemed to be inundated with tea.  Yes, you heard me right … tea! I made cup, after cup, after cup of tea.  I got many comments from the people I care for along the lines of “oh i don’t want to bother you” and “you are too busy to make tea” After my shift had ended I reflected on my tea making and these are some of the conclusions I came to:

To the lady with dementia who swore she hadn’t had a cup of tea all day – I saw that you were more confused than usual and I was concerned that you may be in the early stages of a urinary infection, so wanted to increase your fluid intake (The British Association of Urological Surgeons 2017)

To the man who was married to the lady with dementia – I made you a cup of tea because I felt that as eating and drinking are very social things your wife would be more likely to drink her tea if you joined her for a cup (Alzheimers Society 2017)


To the lady who really hates the taste of the medicine she has to take – I made you a cup of tea because it’s your favourite drink and I know that the taste of the medicine is easier to bear with a cup of tea ready and waiting. (no reference here, just the evidence of knowing the people i care for)

To the lady who was upset that day because it was just a bad day – I made you a cup of tea as that’s what you needed at that time. (The Telegraph 2019 – apologies I can’t find the original study here)

To the lady with dementia who was starting to get agitated because she often does in the evening – I made you a cup of tea and found you an interesting book to look through so you could focus on something positive. (Alzheimers Society 2017)


To all the staff who I made a cup of tea for – I know that you were all on a long day and it had been a busy morning before I arrived and I wanted to make sure that you were hydrated as if you were dehydrated this can affect the safety of the people you are caring for. (Natural Hydration Council 2017) I also know that happy staff make for happy patients (Kings Fund 2012)

To all of these people – I know the importance of a cup of tea and the impact that it can have (Care Opinion Search)

So why did it take me so long to write this blog and why was I worried about finding the right words … well I didn’t spend my shift making tea because it was the nice thing to do, or because I am kind, or because I am an “Angel”  I made tea because I spent 3 years training to be a nurse and 20 years nursing and I know that in each and every one of these interventions tea mattered.  Some days I when nursing I spend my time figuring out why wounds aren’t healing, caring for people who are at the end of their lives who need complex care and support, managing peoples pain, liaising with other health care professionals, training and supervising staff, supporting people who suddenly become very unwell and much, much, much more …. and on each and every one of those days I apply the same thinking as I did to my “tea day”

Whilst I wanted to stress the importance of a simple cup of tea I also did not want to trivialise the profession that I belong to … nursing is complex and we need people to understand that behind each and every intervention there is an evidence base … even tea!

I made tea that day because it was important, on multiple levels, at that time, and for those people. I don’t make tea because of some perceived hand maiden role in nursing  or because I am not highly skilled and highly trained.  I’m not ever too busy to make a cup of tea for someone who needs it and it’s never a bother to be asked. Some days tea is important, some days it’s not.  I apply thinking and reasoning to my actions and deduce that sometimes tea is needed and is important … it’s evidence based tea and it can mean the world to someone.


Strategy AND Policy

I have been thinking a bit lately about social media and what we need to move social media forward in nursing.  Even after 7 years of being a Tweeting and Blogging nurse I still hear stories of social media being shot down, of employers and universities emphatically urging nurses and student nurses to steer clear of any social media; I still hear people poo-hooing social media and saying “it’s a fad”; and I still get incredulous looks when I put the idea on the table that social media has a role to play in our professional lives.  So lets clear this up here and now … social media is here to stay.  Take a look at the timeline below …

social media timeline

… and just take a moment to reflect on the fact that social media has been around for quite sometime now …..

….. yep !

Social media is not going away! Isn’t it about time we realised that ? Social media is no longer new! Isn’t it about time we realised that? Social media plays a huge part in modern life and can be of huge benefit to nursing! It’s definitely time we realised that!

It’s time to think about social media and how we can use it moving forward in nursing and although many healthcare settings have a social media policy (which don’t get me wrong is a fab thing) how many healthcare settings have a social media strategy? How many of us are looking forward and strategically thinking about how we want to shape nursing and how social media can help, support and drive that ?

policy vs strategy

I think that we need not only social media policies but also social media strategies and the two, even though at first glance seen to work in opposition, will help to create a balance that can drive forward the brilliant professional tool that social media can be.

Social media is not new, it’s firmly established .. so lets start setting guidelines and setting goals … and then I believe that nursing can really start to unlock the potential that social media has to be a productive item in our professional toolkits.

Not Mrs Smith!

When I was a student nurse someone told me a story that went something like this:

One day Mrs Jones went into hospital for a minor operation. Before the operation the consultant came to the ward to see Mrs Jones and said “Hello Mrs Smith I am your consultant Mr Brown” Mrs Jones, quite rightly corrected Mr Brown and replied “My name is Mrs Jones not Mrs Smith” to which Mr Brown responded “Hold on let me just check my notes …. ahh yes, you are correct!” 

I am sure that you have all heard similar versions of this story throughout your careers – the point of the tale being that the health care professional is not always correct and when we are incorrect we really need to own up to it and apologise. After all, did the consultant really need to check his notes to see that Mrs Jones was correct about her own name!  I was told this story some 20 years ago now, yet to this day I still come across versions of this story in my practice.


I was recently nursing a lady who challenged a nurse who was misinformed – it took great courage for the lady to do so, yet she was dismissed by the nurse.  It then took an enormous amount of faith and bravery for her then to raise the issue with me.  I sat and I listened and I checked she was ok.  I took her seriously and reassured her that it was right for her to be concerned.  I then explained what I needed to do next and why and I kept checking back with her to update her on where I was.  Before I went home that day the lady took me to one side and thanked me for taking the time to care.  I was a little overwhelmed by her thanks as I really felt that it was just what should have happened to start with and I in fact felt sorry that this hadn’t been the case.

Over the last week I have been reflecting on this event and how we as health care professionals are in a position of power.  We hold a great deal of knowledge but even with all the knowledge we possess we do not know the people we care for as well as they themselves do.  It’s important to understand this, to listen and respect the people we care for … and when we get it wrong, as Mr Brown did with Mrs Jones, and are corrected we need to admit that we are wrong.


I am sure that when we all first heard the story of Mr Brown and Mrs Jones we laughed at the absurdity of it.  Yet not giving the people we care for credit for knowing how they need to be cared for and knowing information about themselves, their care and what matters to them still continues.

I have often heard that nursing is an art and science and i think this is true. Nursing is a science because throughout our careers we gain lots of knowledge, information. and experience and this helps us to be the very best nurses we can be … but nursing is also an art and the art of nursing is listening to and gleaning knowledge from each individual person and encouraging them to lead their care.  The art is also in believing that the people we care for know what is best for them …..and they know better than what we think may be best.


Being smart not unprofessional !

Two conversations caught my eye on Twitter last night, both seemed to get a lot of air time.  The first conversation was sparked by this tweet from @DebsCooper131:

Screenshot 2017-09-26 13.37.29

The tweet got many responses and a good deal of interaction with lots of people tweeting about finding and loosing pens.  It was a good fun sort of thread.

The second tweet and ensuing conversation that captured my interest was sparked by this Tweet from @captaintau:

Screenshot 2017-09-26 13.43.44

There were lots of answers to this tweet and subsequent conversation, and I have to admit that some of the comments surprised me a little.

The two tweets got me thinking as both mention tools that we can use in nursing, the humble pen – been around for eons, everybody has one in their pocket (or even three if you are super organised) its a pretty useful communication device and no one questions its use in nursing; then we have the smartphone – its been around for a bit, it fits in your pocket, its a really useful communication device and yet we seem to question it’s use ! The two devices, pen and smartphone both seem quite useful to me however the two Twitter conversations could not have been more diverse.

The conversation around the pen was light hearted and fun but the conversation about the smartphone could not have been more intense.  I mentioned above that I was surprised by some of the tweets … and I was.  Some people were adamant that it is unprofessional to use a smartphone as a nurse, that it was too “tempting” for nurses to have smartphones in their pockets and why would they need a smartphone anyway ?!!

Can I just say this here and now …. GOOD GRIEF !!!

Firstly a device or a tool no matter how technological can never be unprofessional, ( I am currently rolling my eyes) it’s the inappropriate use of such things that is unprofessional.  A smartphone is a pocket sized communication tool that gives us a world of knowledge and expertise in the palm of our hand ….. why on earth would we not use that?  I would actually argue that not to have one is unprofessional. As for nurses being “tempted” if they have access to a smartphone whilst on duty (again I roll my eyes) I challenge any nurse to find the time to be tempted !! I know that when I do clinical work I really don’t have time to think about anything but the people I am caring for.


What worries me more about both of these conversations is that our willingness to accept that a nurse needs a pen and that it is a valid nursing tool for 2017 (I rarely use a pen in my personal life, yet at work could not get through a second of clinical practice without one) yet our complete inability to accept that a smartphone is not a valid nursing tool (rolls eyes for third time)

There is so much that the smartphone has to offer nursing – access to information, access to expertise, bedside recording, access to records when and where we need it, access to apps, access to the internet, portable communication and all in your pocket.  The pen … well that just writes, and maybe stirs your coffee from time to time.  I was in a restaurant the other day and the waitress got out a smartphone to take my order, I didnt think it was unprofessional of her … I thought “wow, how fab is that?” Go into any Apple store and the sales assistants all use smartphones to help you make a purchase .. are they unprofessional? Does anyone question them? No ! So lets get over this …. smartphones are a smart way to work not an unprofessional way to work.

I was glad to see that Ann-Marie Riley (@AnnMarieRiley10) from Nottingham University Hospitals tweeted and shared her experience, as I know that they are really embracing the use of smartphones for nurses at Nottingham:

Screenshot 2017-09-26 17.12.16

Screenshot 2017-09-26 17.11.22

Screenshot 2017-09-26 17.11.35

Screenshot 2017-09-26 17.11.09

I think Ann-Marie has hit the nail firmly on the head – why wouldn’t we use technology? It’s definitely the smart thing to do – we don’t need to work harder as nurses, we need to work smarter, we need to embrace the technology, we need to stop being fearful.  We are are the people who make ourselves look professional, technology is merely a tool and it cant take away our professionalism.

Finally Matt Ballantine (@ballentine70) brought my thinking full circle when he tweeted:

Screenshot 2017-09-26 17.15.55

It’s not the tools, it’s how we use them …… so lets get smart !


Stuck on CPD

I have had a few conversations lately both on and offline around continuing professional development (CPD)  in nursing, I guess its only natural as more and more of us are revalidating CPD is very much on our minds.  However with austerity still very much the order of the day it worries me that many nurses still remain very fixed in their idea of CPD. I had a conversation with a nurse a little while back who was absolutely adamant that CPD only counted if it took place in a classroom, he was utterly convinced that this was the case until I showed him what the NMC (2017) say about CPD:

Screenshot 2017-08-02 17.53.09

Why was he so fixed in his idea of CPD? I guess historically CPD is something that has always “happened” to us as nurses.  I recall as a newly qualified nurse we had training sessions on the ward I worked, where people came in to teach us about different areas or skills, we were also sent on training courses regularly and CPD was something that came to us from our employer.  Most of the CPD I did was passively sat in a classroom like environment, being talked at – CPD wasn’t something I had to actively do.  So perhaps this has something to do with the reason why so many of us are so fixed in our view of what counts as CPD in nursing?

I have three problems with this idea of CPD:

Firstly – I am not so sure that sitting passively and being talked at in a classroom is really the best way to learn and develop.  I know that it’s certainly not the case with me – I need to actively discuss things, have the scope to read or find out more, explore ideas, try things out and actually “do” instead of just sit and take notes.  A few years ago I came across this on Twitter:


(Source: )

I’m not sure if it’s steeped in any good quality evidence or research but it makes sense to me. I certainly know that passive learning is not for me, conversation, discussion, doing and showing seem to work much better. 

Secondly – There is no money… austerity reigns and classroom based CPD is expensive. Theres the cost of the venue, the speaker(s), the cost of lost work hours and also the cost of travel and expenses.  There has to be a smarter way that gathering people together at a venue … in fact we know there is, we just need to start using them.

Thirdly – We should take control of what we learn.  As a practicing nurse I have interests in social media, elderly care and dementia … learning IVI’s, TPA , BAL, HFEA or some other acronym is not really where i want to take my learning.  I was my CPD to be based around my needs.  I want to dictate when i do it, how I do it and what its on … its my learning after all.

How do we move with the times? How do we change our mindset regarding CPD – perhaps the answer is in developing . social mindset.  I really like this sketchnote by @tnvora that explores social mindset, in particular the social learning element:

social mindset

Social learning is about taking our traditional idea of learning and giving it a good shake.  I love the term “working out loud” and I think that the potential to apply this is nursing is huge.  learning together, developing communities of practice and creating an ecosystem of learning when and where we want it is, in my opinion, a very attractive proposition.

Isn’t it time that we took hold of CPD and turned it on its head? Isn’t it time we took responsibility for it? Isn’t it time we took control of it?  Isn’t it time to stop being passive about our learning as nurses? I think that social learning is the way forward – it’s time to step out of the classroom and into individualised lifelong social learning.


I quite often listen to Radio 2 as I go about my day to day life, it’s on in the car, the kitchen and even the office, I like the mix of music and chat … this week Chris Evans was discussing some rather interesting stuff that really resonated with me.  The section was all about worry and stress and whilst I mostly don’t get too stressed I am a worrier so the conversation was one that I stopped and listened to. Chris and the person he was chatting to (apologies I didn’t catch his name) were talking about how we can cope with stress and worry and the phrase “put your own oxygen mask on before helping others” This was something that I had not heard in this context before and it certainly made me wonder … do we do this in nursing?

Entirely by coincidence last week I ran a series of Twitter Polls through WeNurses asking nurses if they had taken their break that day.  I ran it for 3 days … and here are the results:

Whilst the polls themselves reveal some concerning results the comments made in reply to the polls were perhaps the most interesting part:


Not taking a break means that we don’t get to rest, eat or drink.   Hydration amongst doctors and nurses on call (El-Shakawry 2016) is a study that looked at the scale and impact of dehydration on doctors and nurses.  The study found  ”Thirty-six percent of participants were dehydrated at the start of the shift and 45% were dehydrated at the end of their shift” and “Single number and five-letter Sternberg short-term memory tests were significantly impaired in dehydrated participants” This doesn’t even take into account hunger or tiredness … and what about the long term effects on mental health and wellbeing and morale? Not taking a break is a serious problem in nursing and you might argue one that affects the care we deliver, yet from the comments not having a break seems so … well … normal … and .. acceptable!

I wonder if we were to view our breaks as oxygen masks would we think differently about the importance of them? I am not being flippant here, I honestly think that we need to take this approach.  We have to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others – how can we make important care decisions if we are have not rested, eaten or drunk throughout the course of our shift?


At this point I feel I must confess that I have often been on a clinical shift where I have not taken a break and recently I have been reflecting of why this has happened.  Sometimes the shift has been very busy and there just doesn’t seem to have been time for me to step off the floor .. so given the now established fact that breaks are akin to oxygen masks would I do this differently? Yes I think I will – no matter how busy the shift working tired, hungry and thirsty is counter productive and we need to recognise this.  If I were on a plane and attended to someone else’s oxygen mask before my own I would soon be on the floor gasping for air and we would both be in trouble ! By taking a break this means I can return to my work refreshed and able to care more effectively.

Although taking breaks whilst on duty takes a change in individual mindset I also think that we have to support colleagues to take breaks to … ask them if they have had a break, do that urgent thing for them whilst they go off the floor, reassure them that you will care for that really unwell person and tell them that in order to care effectively they must take care of themselves.  We also need to address organisational culture – is it normal in your work environment that people take breaks? How can we make this a good thing to do? How can we check that people have had a break? How can we support people to take breaks?

The choice is simple – we can either care until we drop, leading to unwell nurses and poor care … or we can take a break and breathe in the oxygen that enables us to provide the very best of care.