Overnight Staff (2003)
From: b t
I think that overnight staff are an important and often overlooked part of any staff team. From my experience I find it much easier to practice relationship building with youth when working shifts during the day. On overnights one needs to be extremely creative with each youth as an individual. For many different reasons there is anxiety with most youth around going to bed. I think that relationship building is very key in this position to help each youth feel safe in the knowledge that you are going to be watching over them for a significant amount of time and they are totally vulnerable to you and other residents. I think that training for overnight staff is a great idea. Many of the tools tht I have used, or have seen used have been mentioned already so I will not tire everyone with those. I have been working overnights for a year and a half, every weekend while I have been in school. I have found that a light hearted sense of humour tends to calm most youth down around bedtime. This way they do not usually feel like they are being told what they have to do, but are being told what is in their best interest. I do, however think it is extremely important that higher powers within agencys and the government recognize the potentially volitile situation that overnight workers and youth are put in each night and start to fund programs to have two overnight workers. The safety of the youth may be in jeopardy if there were a staff member who was to physically or sexually harm a resident in the night. It would be extremely difficult to prove. There is also the threat of a youth making false allegations, which I have seen happen to one of my fellow staff members and is a very scary situation to find oneself in. I think that if there are always two staff on it makes for a safer environment for both staff and youth. I realize that this is very far off and will not be happening for a long time, maybe even until something terrible happens (knock on wood), but I think that we can get the ball rolling toward having two overnight staff by writing the higher powers within our field.
From: Richard Matthews
I have worked in the same facility for the past 4 yrs, there has not been a time since my hiring that there has not been 2 overnight staff working. I think that this is something that is a necessary part of our job, as it helps create safety and security for both residents and Staff. As has already been suggested 2 staff on at night really clarifies situations, enables staff to be better prepared for situations that may arise, enables more growth and development and enhances relationships between colleagues as well as between residents and staff members. I am aware that not everyone works at a facility where crisis is a consistent environment for the youth, however, if there are places out there that deal with crisis on any level, there is no rational reason that one person should be expected to be responsible for all of the things that may need to be done. (Mind you this is the opinion of one staff member who works at a crisis intervention center with 7 youth ages 12-18yr old)
It baffles me that there are some agencies/facilities that have left that area of our job as a non-descript, non-evaluated issue.
If there was not already enough scrutiny on our line of work this really opens up doors for people outside of our agencies to criticize and minimize the effectiveness of our work, possibly an area that would close some facilities. It is necessary, and should not be left to debate.
From: Mary Fiakpui
Very interesting points you bring. While I agree that two night staff should be the way to go, I do not agree with the reasons given for that recommendation. I also feel that we cannot make that as a blanket recommendation for every place youth workers are left with youth over night. Allegations will come even when there are ten people on shift. Agencies therefore need to put things in place to avoid allegations, one of which is building strong and positive relationships and trust between workers and youth. I have worked nights for the past 6 years and allegations have been my last fear. Again it depends on the place of work.
Overnight staff are just as important as day time staff. In my place of work, the youth are all in full time day programs (work or/plus school). they leave the house in the morning and come in the evening when daytime staff are leaving. I am with the youth from 7 p.m. when I start my shift until 7 a.m. when they start getting ready for their programs. The youth are usually awake until 11 p.m. and sometimes they are awake all night depending on the day of the week or their mood and energy level. I spend more time with the youth than day time staff. I need just as much training and experience as day time staff.
As a mother, I am busier with my children when they come home from school than when they are away. Of course the time they are away is the time to check with school and other places that are of importance to my children but really my skills and tolerance level as a parent are very much more challenged in the evening and weekend when the children are at home than when they are at school or at work. The same applies to my place of work. Those who would hire night staff with less qualifications than day time staff are, I believe, doing a great dis-service to the youth that are put in our care. As night staff, I do everything fot youth that mom and/or dad would do in a normal home setting. As a night staff I have as much qualification as my day time colleagues. In the places where I have worked, night staff are just as important and as qualified/experienced as day time staff. Working night therefore becomes a matter of preference.
From: Laura Gauthier
Mary ... I agree with you ... somewhat.
In my residence the way it works is, all of the staff rotate through a 4 week schedule which incles all of the sifts ... days, eves, overnights and weekends. so as you can imagine ... we are half dead after our overnights shifts, casue it is inhumane ... but that is an whole other topic. anyways, we have the school of thought, that since our overnight shifts are starting an hour after the children go to bed (we rarely have settling issues), and they end as soon as all the kids have left for school, that this shift is a waste of our skills. the entire shift is spent cleaning and staring at the wall. We have 2 staff on overnight, one that sleeps and one that doesnt. the one that sleeps is the one that delas with any issues that bump in the night, the one that goes to the hospital with kids etc ... so essentially, the awake shift just is a scurity guard and does the rounds all night. we have been instructed to use this time to report write, but nothing objective or thoughtworthy will even get done at 4am, so we cant. We have been fighting to have the awake shifts be one persons full time job, and have asked that that person be fully skilled in crisis management (cause at 2am..if they are up it is a crisis!) and also have very creative interests so they can work on our house scrap book, programming and weekly planning for us ... cause there is never any time on other shifts. our management is very reluctant to make any changes to thier schedualling system, but fortunately we are unionised, so if they were to make that change, the nights person would have to be as skilled as the other shifts or there would be crazy grivances!
Anways ... I kinda went on there ... anyone have any stats or interesting pieces on the effects of shift work on CYW's or ppl in general? As a union rep, I am trying to convince management that they are killing us, and that their 'turn over' is infact burn out ... and is avoidable.
Thanks Laura CAS
From: Mel fjell
I have also worked the overnight shift on sleep shifts and awake shifts and I think that Mary had some very relevent points that night staff are just as important as the day staff. To look as this particular shift and minimize it's relevence would I think undermine this position.
Sometimes this is when the worker and youth sometimes have the best conversations giving way to the relationship and allowing the youth that needed time with the staff as also working day shift sometimes it is very hard to have that one on one time with a youth that is in need of connecting.
Both shifts are vital to any program.
From: Angela Dougherty
While trust and warm positive relationships are good things, we all need to remember that bad things do happen to good people. Positive relationships take time, so how can we use that as a strategy to avoid allegations for the clients who have been with us for a short time? There is no foundation for trust for many of the individuals we connect with so I would look at other methods, one being having a second staff around.
I am replying to your post to offer input which may be helpful to you in the position of union rep. Having said this, however, I believe it is critical for overnight staff to be trained in the identical manner as day and evening staff. Crisis and emotional issues are not confined to 9 am to midnight!
I suspect you are aware of the long term health impact of shift work. There are some recent studies linking shift work to an increase in certain types of cancers. I believe the incidence of a shift worker developing cancer is higher if the individual is female. This study followed nurses over a significant period who worked rotating shifts.
Dr. Rachel Morehouse is a recognized "sleep issues" expert. She is with the Sleep Clinic at the QE2 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This clinic's work could well be a resource for you and your colleagues who would like to see your employer hire a f/t night staff person.
The irregular night shifts should/could be considered an Occupational Health and Safety issue. Good luck with sorting out this necessary staff position.