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Snacking better for nights-shifts workers than traditional meals, study suggests

The finding could help millions of shift workers who work during the night.

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A snack was shown to reduce the impact of sleepiness and fatigue.

In a study conducted by the University of South Australia, researchers found that a simple snack was the best choice for maximising alertness and productivity.

Researchers investigated whether altering food intake during the nightshift could optimise how shift workers feel during the night and reduce their sleepiness.

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Over a 7-day simulated shift work protocol, the study assessed the impact of three eating conditions (a meal comprising 30% of energy intake over a 24-hour period (for example, a sandwich, muesli bar, and apple), a snack comprising 10% of energy intake (for example, just the muesli bar and apple) and no food intake at all) each consumed at 12:30 am.

The 44 participants were randomly split into the three test-conditions and were asked to report on their levels of hunger, gut reaction and sleepiness.

All participants reported increased sleepiness and fatigue and decreased vigour across the nightshift; consuming a snack greater reduced the impact of these feelings than a meal or no food at all; no uncomfortable feelings of fullness were noted by the snack group unlike the full meal group.

The lead researcher, UniSA PhD candidate Charlotte Gupta, said the finding has the potential to help thousands of shift workers who work during the night.

Snacks optimise alertness and performance.

“As a nightshift worker, finding ways to manage your alertness when your body is naturally primed for sleep can be really challenging,” Gupta stated. “We know that many nightshift workers eat on-shift to help them stay awake, but until now, no research has shown whether this is good or bad for their health and performance. This is the first study to investigate how workers feel and perform after eating different amounts of food. The findings will inform the most strategic eating patterns on-shift and can hopefully contribute to more alert and better performing workers.”

In Australia, 15% of 1.4 million shift workers regularly work a night or evening shift; working at night makes it harder to stay focused and awake as it conflicts with a person’s internal circadian clock. Therefore, it’s critical for workplace health and safety to manage fatigue.

“Now that we know that consuming a snack on nightshift will optimise your alertness and performance without any adverse effects, we’re keen to delve more into the types of snacks shift workers are eating. Lots of shift workers snack multiple times over a nightshift, and understanding the different macronutrient balances is important, especially as many report consuming foods high in fat, such as chips, chocolate and fast foods,” informed Gupta.

“We’re keen to assess how people feel and perform after a healthy snack versus a less-healthy, but potentially more satisfying snack like chocolate or lollies. Ultimately, the goal is to help Australian shift workers on the nightshift to stay alert, be safe, and feel healthy.”

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Safe staffing and equality have been an issue since the start

Parliament passed the Nurses Registration Act in 1919.

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State registered nurse

A new exhibition charts the history of nursing from the Nurses Registration Act to modern-day.

In the centenary year of nurse registration, a new exhibition charts the history of the journey from the Nurses Registration Act in 1919 through to the modern-day.

Called ‘Wake up Slackers! The great nursing registration controversy’ the exhibition looks at the heated arguments around the official registration of nurses through the first registration of men, overseas nurses and one of the first nurses to be struck off.

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The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) was just three years old when registration first happened and securing this had been part of its founding ambitions.

The exhibition shows how many of the discussions and controversies of the past, including safe staffing, continue today and influence many of the discussions around modern nursing.

The Nurses Registration Act.

The exhibit contains artefacts from the RCN archive including invites to member meetings to discuss the College’s proposals for state registration, House of Commons Parliamentary debates during the year the Nurses Registration Act was passed in 1919, as well as drafts of legislation.

Opening during Black History Month, the exhibition also showcases the story of Eva Lowe, one of the first known black nurses on the register. Research shows how, despite being well qualified she was rejected many times before finding employment. It shows how she received vague and unsatisfactory excuses for her rejection, some based on false concern for her welfare.

As well as letters and documents from the RCN’s own archive, the exhibition will also feature items loaned from other collections such as that of the regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Are nurses born or made?

Frances Reed, Events and Exhibitions Co-ordinator at the Royal College of Nursing said: “It is incredible today to think that 100 years ago there were arguments about whether or not nurses should be registered.

“Today it seems unthinkable for somebody with such responsibility for the welfare of patients not to be registered and yet there were strident clashes over it, despite other health professions securing regulation well before nursing.

“The story of the first black nurse on the register, Eva Lowe is important to highlight too. There is little known about black nurses whose names are on the very early 1920s registers.  It is essential we recognise that their contribution to health care existed well before Windrush.

“It’s also particularly striking to see how hard Eva Lowe had to fight to become the first black nurse on the register, and how 100 years later racial inequalities still exist in the health and care system.

The exhibition runs at RCN HQ in Cavendish Square, London 17 October – 20 March 2020

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Education

One in six nursing associates drop out before qualifying, finds report

Despite this trainees showed “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”.

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Group of nurses in meeting

Only 65% of trainee nursing associates said they planned to work as a nursing associate once qualified.

An independent evaluation of the nursing associate role commissioned by Health Education England (HEE) has found that while there are “high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the programme”, one in six nursing associates are dropping out before completing the course.

Attrition rates for trainee nursing associates fell slightly below that of student nurses, with 18% leaving before completing the course.

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While ill health and personal issues were some of the most common reasons for leaving the programme, nearly a quarter (23%) withdrew because they failed to meet the academic requirements of the programme – with numeracy skills cited as a key issue.

One trainee said they found the “attitudes towards the role and the negative feedback about Nursing Associates” challenging.

Only 65% of trainees said they intend to continue working as a nursing associate once qualified as the programme is often seen as a stepping stone to becoming a registered nursing.

Highlighting challenges.

Mark Radford, Chief Nursing Officer, Health Education England said the report “highlights some challenges that we must address to ensure that students such as ensuring the quality and oversight of placements, attrition and numeracy support.”

“We also recognise that further work and research is required to ensure that the profession is supported and utilised in the workforce of health and social care as part of the MDT. I am pleased to be able to report that we are in the process of identifying candidates to be considered as NA ambassadors across England.

Commenting on the report, Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Executive and Registrar for the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), said; “Having had the pleasure of meeting many nursing associates across the country, I am continually inspired by their enthusiasm and dedication for providing care and they should be very proud of the difference they make for the people they support.”

“I look forward to seeing how nursing associates continue to develop and be supported in their work, long into the future.”

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