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10 morale boosters for off-shift staff.

Many laboratorians who work the evening and night shifts suffer unnecessarily from feelings of alienation and isolation.

A major problem confronting laboratory managers is finding ways to make staff members who work the evening and night shifts feel that they are an integral part of the organization. The overall success of a lab depends on the combined efforts of all staff members, 24 hours a day. Yet workers who come to work after 5:00 p.m., not necessarily by choice, rarely receive the feedback they crave. Utter silence from management may lead them to wonder if their contributions are understood and appreciated. In time they may feel totally detached from their institutions. If emotional detachment results in literal detachment - that is, if they decide to leave - the facility may have to deal with loss of personnel on a shift for which it is notoriously difficult to recruit.

This article presents 10 ways to strengthen the bond between laboratories and their off-shift employees. Only by forging channels of communication can the laboratory retain the commitment of such individuals to the facility at large.

1 Conduct a survey. Distribute an attitude survey that is designed to identify the staffs likes and dislikes while soliciting suggestions for improving the quality of their work environment. After tabulating the results, let your off-shift employees know which suggestions will be acted upon - and which will not. It is important to assure these workers that their concerns are being taken seriously. Otherwise they may well become even more cynical about management's overtures, and, in the process, increasingly disenfranchised from the organization at large. Instituting changes based on the staff's recommendations sends the important message that management wants to raise their level of job satisfaction.

2 Communicate. Effective communication between off-shift workers and the management team can be a problem since many managers are visible only during the day. What off-shift staff require are richer forms of communication - not greater volume. While a stream of written correspondence is useful, communication must be face to face at least some of the time. One laboratory manager and chief pathologist create educational presentations and send messages to their evening and night crews on audiocassettes and videotapes. Two-way talks are best; one-way talks are better than nothing.

3 Schedule "speakeasies." Consider having different managers host a "speakeasy" for evening and night crews every other month or so. At such meetings, discuss new policies, procedures, and programs while fielding questions from the staff on various topics of concern to them. Such gatherings show nighttime employees that their concerns are as important as those of daytime employees and that their contributions are needed for the organization to succeed. Appearing at meetings is crucial at times of major change in the institution, such as restructuring, "downsizing," physical construction, and major alterations in schedules or policies.

4 Facilitate training. Since all staff must be kept up to par on their abilities, knowledge, and skills in a fast-changing clinical environment, training seminars must be offered to all laboratorians, not just day workers-as is often the case. Leaving out the off-shift staff hurts not only the people working evenings and nights but also the facility itself, which then fails to benefit from the valuable feedback those individuals could have provided.

5 Enhance responsibilities. Many off-shift employees are required to process emergency specimens, perform instrument maintenance, and complete routines that were not finished during the day. Limiting the variety of their work impedes their motivation. Consider assigning tasks beyond traditional routine activities. Some laboratories perform most of their specialized, small-batch, non-routine assays during off-hours.

6 Organize a journal club. One of the most pressing requirements for lab professionals is to offer and obtain continuing education, which enhances both scientific knowledge and clinical skills. Yet arranging CE for off-shift staff is often difficult. Why not form an off-shift journal club? You might even produce a series of educational audiotapes for use at such meetings.

7 Hold social gatherings. Company-sponsored social events enhance employees' morale and promote a unified work culture. Here again, evening and night employees are more times than not excluded from these get-togethers. Make a point of running similar activities for your evening and night people at your institution. Whenever feasible, hold social gatherings at times when the majority of all staff members can attend. Taking steps to include as many employees as possible will make it clear to your off-shift staff that management considers their contributions as valuable as those of day-shift workers.

8 Host breakfasts. A great way to make yourself more visible to your off-shift employees and encourage communication is to organize staff breakfasts. The manager and medical director at one laboratory host periodic breakfasts at a restaurant near their facility for the night staff when their shift is over. All enjoy these get-togethers.

9 Advertise achievements. If your laboratory publishes a company newsletter, be sure to include stories about your off-shift employees' accomplishments. As these workers bask in the same amount of attention as their daytime counterparts, they will be inspired to achieve even more. One hospital's newsletter periodically features descriptions of the varied competencies of individual staff members. Illustrating the accomplishments of key off-shift staffers usually serves as a powerful motivator.

10 Create special awards. Design awards that recognize the achievements of your off-shift staff. One laboratory has created an annual special achievement award that is given to the off-shift employee who makes the greatest contributions to the organization. Winners are nominated by their peers.

The key to greater work satisfaction and improved morale for off-shift staff lies in creating an environment that permits these laboratorians to feel that their overall contributions are vital and valued. I urge all managers to consider the special needs of their evening and night staffs. The result will be a more invigorated work force and a more productive organization.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:medical laboratory personnel working on night shifts
Author:Rondeau, Kent V.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Previous Article:Selecting instruments with an eye to CLIA.
Next Article:Implementing near-patient coagulation monitoring.

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