When I decided to apply for the NHS Graduate Scheme I was sure there would be shifts involved as I knew the NHS was a 24/7 service. However, I was wrong! Most managers in the NHS; clinical and non-clinical, work the standard Monday to Friday 9-5, with the occasional on-call commitment. This is something that has both shocked and interested me throughout my graduate scheme journey and why I was full of enthusiasm when the opportunity arose to shadow a night shift.
I work in a large acute hospital which is cross site and also a major trauma centre and I had the opportunity to shadow the duty matron, the incredible person who basically looks after the hospital at night, from dealing with nurses moving between wards depending on staffing levels, to deciding where patients should be admitted and attending cardiac arrest callouts.
My first observation as I arrived at the hospital at 6.30 pm was how quiet it was. As I walked up to the entrance the doors were closed and locked and I breathed a sigh of relief when I realised my ID badge worked and let me in the hospital. Armed with a bag of snacks and a huge flask of coffee I found the office I was due to arrive at for the 7pm start. The first part of the shift started with a handover from the bed managers and the day matron, passing on all of the key information and allowing the duty matron to establish what bed base he was going to have for the coming night. The shift involved walking around every ward on the main hospital site to check in on the staff in each area and frequent trips to keep an eye on A&E.
By the morning my mind was buzzing with everything I had learnt and experienced. The hospital really was a different place at night and I was impressed how efficient everything was even though far fewer staff worked across the hospital. It was a brilliant opportunity to talk to night staff, which I would not have had the opportunity to otherwise, and I appreciate the time of the wonderful nurse I worked with who explained everything to me brilliantly.
Though I do appreciate sleep and ‘normal’ working hours it does make me wonder if managers should routinely do other hours than the usual 9-5? I would urge anyone reading this who works in the NHS to seek out the opportunity to do a night shift, your eyes will surely be opened, after a few coffees that is…