Duty Calls

Written by: Melanie Wong
Published by: Helen Le

Monday blues, ‘Hump’ day, TGIF. These are phrases that have become a large part of the modern vocabulary. But while everyone has heard of them before, not everyone is able to reap the benefits of a five-day working week.

‘Duty calls’ is an expression that undoubtedly shapes the lives of many nurses. Anyone working in the health industry will know that there’s no such thing as a nine to five day for nurses and weekends are a rare luxury. Nursing staff often have five rotating shifts a week, which can be day or night shifts that can be up to twelve hours in duration. There are rosters for each week of each month, constantly shifting and being rewritten which in turn provides little stability for staff. As nurses and doctors work around the clock to provide care to patients, this can take a serious toll on both their own health and well-being, a fact that remains unknown to the public.

This does not only apply to weekends and night shifts. Public holidays such as Australia Day, Easter and Christmas will often have to be sacrificed by nursing staff. In a couple of weeks, there’ll be a NSW Labour Day public holiday on Monday 1st October yet only a handful of nurses will be able to take that day off. While penalty rates undeniably act as compensation, a question arises of whether those who engage with nurses working unconventional hours really consider that these same nurses are missing family events, catch-ups with friends and relaxation. Because these times can also often be the busiest times, nurses can experience less than pleasant encounters with impatient members of the public, uncooperative patients and increasingly stressful environments.

The perpetual rhythm of work that can define a nurse’s life has, like everything else, both perks and drawbacks. But if you’re a nurse struggling to juggle all the different facets of your life, from work to socialising with the family to your own ‘me’ time, and having to abide by rigid set rostering, working as a casual nurse through an agency such as Healthcare HQ maybe an option to consider. Staffing and recruitment agencies can provide nurses with more freedom over their schedules, allowing them to choose their availabilities rather than accept their rostered shifts and can break up the monotony of monthly rosters.

In a few Mondays’ time, many NSW residents will be enjoying a much-needed long weekend. It may be time to consider how to reclaim your nights, weekends and public holidays.