This is a guide for RCN members about staffing levels during handover and breaks.
If there is no registered nurse to take charge of the next shift you remain bound by your NMC Code to act in the best interests of your patients or clients. However, if you have already worked a full shift, you may feel unsafe to continue working, especially if this means covering a night shift.
If you are working in a care home, please contact the registered manager who has 24 hour responsibility for the home. You should explain the situation and request that cover be arranged, even if this means that the registered manager (who is a registered nurse) has to cover the shift themselves.
If you are working within the NHS, or for a large private organisation, there should be a local policy and a documented escalation process available to you.
If the above issue is a recurring problem, please contact us. We may be able to support you to raise your concerns.Back to contents
If you are the only registered nurse - and therefore in charge - you must stay on the premises during your shift. You should be paid for this. If you work in a care home, the registering authority will revoke the home's registration if there is no qualified person on the premises.
As a nurse, you are bound by your NMC Code and owe a duty of care to your patients to ensure their safety and manage risk. You are professionally accountable for your acts and omissions and you must be able to justify your decisions.Back to contents