Healthy in shift work

Shift work : On the job at nightShift work is part of everyday life in hospitals. What helps ensure that working against the usual daily rhythm doesn't harm your health.

Shift work is risky for health. For many employees, the change between early, late and night shifts is a burden that has to be mastered time and again.

"After two night shifts, I need two days off to sleep in and be fit again for the next shifts," says Tom Pabkonig. He is a nurse at the Vivantes Klinikum Am Urban in Kreuzberg. Prefer to work the early shift. For him, however, the changing working hours also have advantages. "By changing shifts, I often have more time during the day to take my car to the repair shop or attend doctor's appointments than people who always work during the day," says the 51-year-old. The monthly bonus of 105 euros also makes shift work attractive.

More shift work in the future

One in five employees in Germany (around 20 percent) works outside the "normal" working hours of seven to 7 p.m. Like Passport King, 13 percent of all employees have to come to terms with alternating early, late and night shifts. According to a recent survey by the IG Metall trade union, only 35 percent of shift workers are satisfied with their working hours. Of the remaining employees, it is 54 percent. And the ie is becoming increasingly important. According to the Techniker Krankenkasse, shift work continues to increase. In production in the chemical, steel and electrical industries, as well as in the growing service sector, people are increasingly working around the clock.

Shift workers face two major challenges, says Yvonne Lott, an expert on working time from the Hans Bockler Foundation, which is close to the trade unions. "Social participation is difficult with shift work because the shift rhythm often does not correspond to social times, such as family celebrations at the weekend and events in the evening," says Lott. Night shifts also affect people's health because they upset the internal clock, "the mechanism that synchronizes the activity rhythms of living creatures with the rotation of the earth". Three physicians were awarded the Nobel Prize last year for their research into these relationships. When this rhythm is upset, there are consequences: Many older employees who have been working shifts for longer would suffer from sleep disorders. Accumulated sleep deficits worsen reaction times. Relationships between shift work. Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases have been statistically proven.

Better forward rotating shifts

"Shift work can only be good work if it is designed sensibly," says the scientist. The Techniker Krankenkasse also comments on this: According to this, forward-rotating shifts cause fewer complaints than backward-rotating shifts.

Vivantes Klinikum Am Urban also adheres to this principle: For shift workers, the early shift is followed by the late shift and then the night shift. Including handover times, the early shift is from 6.30 to 14.45 o'clock, the late shift from 14.15 to 22.00 o'clock and the night shift of 21.45 to 7.00 o'clock.

"So that employees can plan appointments and their leisure activities well in advance, we organize the duty roster at least eight weeks in advance," says Peggy Dubois, the director of nursing at Vivantes Klinikum. Four night shifts in a row is the maximum – and employees will only do that if they want to. "Individual wishes, if someone wants to have a day off or take on more early shifts, we take them into account in wish schedules," she explains. It is also important, for example, that parents can be deployed in such a way that they can bring and pick up their children at the daycare center. In addition, colleagues could swap shifts. Part-time models also make shift work more tolerable. Tom Pabkonig's nursing team, for example, includes 16 employees, ten of whom work full-time and six part-time.

To support its employees, Vivantes Klinikum has joined forces with the pension insurance fund to launch a program offering sports and information on healthy nutrition. In addition, there are back and yoga courses. To keep fit, nurse Pabkonig rides his bike ten kilometers a day. He has to forego membership in a sports club because of the rotating shift. Passport King also makes sure to eat healthy food. He tries to get to the yogurt during the night shift. Not reaching for sweets.

There are opportunities

It's difficult to make shift work in hospitals work in favor of employees, says labor scientist Lott. Many hospitals would have few staff. This is compensated for by additional work, often by part-time employees.

More on the topic

Shift work Out of sync

Nevertheless, there are some ways to improve conditions: Shift work can be made more compatible, for example, through flextime and shorter working hours, says Lott. Where possible, light work tasks can be shifted to the night and night shifts can be staffed with fewer personnel. Also important: Special stresses should not be compensated for with money, but with free time and recreation, the scientist advises.

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