5 Reasons NOT to Skip Pre-Shift Meetings

If you work in health care at all, you are probably familiar with “shift report”, or “morning meeting”, or “huddle”. While the content varies from one facility to the next, the universal aim is to provide the employees coming on with a quick rundown of how the previous shift went, what they can expect on their shift as a result, and any new or exciting policies or best practices being implemented: (spoiler alert, in healthcare, there are ALWAYS new practices and policies being put into place). Any pertinent safety information would typically be relayed here first, and any facility wide delays or improvements that might affect the work flow of the unit may be introduced. Seems simple enough, right?

  But here’s the thing: No one, and by no one I mean ABSOLUTELY no one, actually likes pre shift meetings, do they? Even the nurse managers and unit supervisors responsible for enforcing these shenanigans probably dread them, because it’s one more thing they have to keep track of and enforce, one more expectation they have to set for a group of people who undoubtedly already feel like too much is expected of them as it is. I’m pretty sure unit supervisors and nurse managers aren’t big fans of extra hassle, although I think we can all agree that there are quite a few who might be fans of never cracking a joke, not smiling at all, and never, under any circumstances, unclenching their butt cheeks. And even if your job is the most rewarding one on earth, you probably don’t want to go there any earlier than you have to.

    If you are one of those people like myself who generally consider three minutes late to be right on time, showing up a full five minutes ahead of time can seem almost impossible. Sitting in a room full of your grumpy, under-caffeinated co-workers, waiting to have the nurse leader from the night or day shift hustle in like a storm cloud of anxiety and rain on each individual parade, reminding you that if you think you have it bad now, it’s about to get worse, is tough to get excited about. It can feel like an even bigger waste of time if you are working several consecutive shifts, and have already heard most of the safety updates and/or policy and improvement news, (which tend to be repeated for a few days in most places, in an attempt to provide better communication). And the temptation is always there to just skip it. Why not, right? It’s boring! It’s a drag! Well hang in there, because I’m about to tell you why you should NOT, yes, not, skip the pre shift showdown:

1- Safety: This one seems kind of obvious, but one of the things typically reviewed in huddle are the high risk fall patients, those at greatest clinical risk, and those with any challenging behaviors with the potential for escalation. I think we can all agree that a team effort makes for the safest environment, so, when everyone entering the unit knows that when the bed alarm goes off in room 115 you better hustle, because that means he’s already halfway out the bed, or that if the lady in 220 tells you she is safe to walk the halls alone she is LYING, or if you see the boyfriend for 317 coming in to visit call security, there is more likely to be effective intervention than if the only person who knows is the nurse in that assignment, especially if that nurse happens to be tied up putting in a catheter somewhere when all three of these scenarios play out at once. This makes sense, and I would much rather be mildly inconvenienced by having to show up to huddle every day than stand idly by while a disaster plays out that I didn’t see coming, but could have, you know, by going to huddle.

2- Communication: In any human environment, change is constantly occurring, and the hospital is no exception. In the business of physical health and well-being, it would be imprudent to leave any important information, changes, or updates to word of mouth. In the setting of a shift huddle, everyone hears the same information at the same time, considerably reducing the opportunity for miscommunication. Upcoming deadlines, temporary safety measures, case studies, and daily updates (who is the house supervisor? who from unit leadership is present today? who is leading the critical response team? did anyone bring snacks?) are generally delivered here. The overall result is a clear relay of crucial information in a timely manner. Hard to argue with that.

3- Collaboration- Because shift huddles typically welcome all working disciplines to participate, discussion can happen between CNA’s, nurses, unit supervisors, reception, interns if possible, social workers, dietary, whomever your unit or division designates as integral to the functional operations of the day. When safety or practice is brought up with regard to policy or particular patients, someone in the group may very well have a potential solution to a hurdle the unit as a group or an individual has been facing. Because all different points of view and areas of expertise are represented, in theory, real problem solving can take place. If you have a tip or trick to share in these moments don’t hesitate, it could be valuable information to someone who’s been struggling for a solution. If the group faces an obstacle unique to one shift, such as short staffing, (which is, of course, NEVER an issue, right?), or a system downtime, this is the perfect place to decide as a unit how to best approach the situation for the most effective outcome, so everyone is on the same page, and nothing, theoretically, is left to chance. Be willing to participate, and offer ideas. This is where stuff gets done. For real.

4- Teamwork: Everyone is probably sick of hearing about teamwork, but, really, it is the absolute lifeblood of an efficient, effective workplace. Trust me when I say NO ONE is performing a code on their own. When it comes to saving lives, none of us can do it alone. An every man for himself attitude is absolutely toxic in this environment, after all, we aren’t competing for a movie role, we’re trying to keep hearts beating and lungs expanding and bowels moving. Gathering with your co-workers before actually working with them lets you assess, on the more obvious level, who is there, and who came dressed for success, who’s hung over, who you might not want helping you hang blood, who’s smiling, who’s constipated. All joking aside, you’re discussing your day together, the work you’re going to do, the challenges you might face, and whether or not you will be ordering take out. When the meeting is over, you’re heading out on to the unit as a united front, ready to face the day. I’m describing a perfect world here, of course, but still. The information, collaboration, and preparation in huddle emphasize personal and group responsibility, and promote teamwork without a doubt.

5- Professionalism: It shows a great deal of integrity and a measure of your commitment to your profession, your co-workers, and your patients when you participate in something designed to promote safety, communication, collaboration, and teamwork. Even as small an effort as it might seem, attendance and participation make a difference. Will you get fired if you don’t go to huddle? Probably not. Will you miss out on a lot of important information, updates, and potentially munchkins and coffee? Absolutely. When you attend huddle you acknowledge the work of your leadership and their efforts. You show respect to your peers from the outgoing shift, by accepting the highlights they’ve gathered for you and passed on through the shift leader. You engage with the people you’ll be with in the coming hours, and demonstrate your respect for their time and commitment as well. Nursing is a profession, and we have to be professional. We represent hundreds of years of the evolution of one of the most trusted, respected fields in the workforce, and showing up for a pre-shift meeting seems like a pretty easy way to start our day recognizing and appreciating that.

   I’m not saying huddle is magic. I’m definitely not saying each one will be groundbreaking, or change the course of healthcare forever. I can’t promise you anyone will bring brownies, although I have led many a huddle and suggest this every time. And life happens, you won’t always be able to make it. But small actions support bigger actions, bigger goals, and better outcomes. So why not take this easy win, show up to huddle, participate, and see if it doesn’t help even just a little bit. You’ll be setting a great example, and, who knows, maybe this time someone will bring brownies…..

The Nurse Curse / Kitterhi Durgin is a popular blogger and social media influencer. You can see some of her funnies at instagram.com/thenursecurse and read more on www.rn-mfkrs.net

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Scrubs Staff


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