Defining night roles accurately can be difficult; different titles are used, and titles may not always mean the same to everyone. It is important to accurately define the role of a night carer at the onset; to ensure the correct wage is paid, (to both attract and retain great staff), and to be sure the night carer is working safely. For example, if a role is described as On-Call but it is really a Waking Night, the carer may have other commitments during the day for which they need to have adequate sleep.
At Snap Care, we use 3 job titles that clearly describe each role, helping to avoid any confusion:
Waking Night Carer
On-Call Night Carer
Sleeping Night Carer
We recruit support for children and adults of all ages, 0 - 65, for ease of reading, we refer to the ‘client’.
Carers provide support to the client throughout the night. This may be monitoring and/or carrying out required tasks throughout the night such as turning/repositioning to ensure the client is as comfortable as possible, managing seizures, observations, or medication administration. Carers work either in the same room as the client or in a nearby room with video/auditory monitors.
A night carer should be occupied throughout the shift to ensure they stay alert and awake. Where client engagement is minimal, carers should be given tasks related to the client or be allowed to occupy themselves, for example, to study.
We recommend a carer works a maximum of 4 waking nights a week. Ideally, the nights worked will be fixed nights each week to allow the carer to establish their own healthy sleeping patterns. If someone is working full time as a waking night carer, they should not be doing any other jobs, like anyone, they need their sleep.
Sometimes On-Call nights are referred to as ‘Sleep-in’ Nights, but we feel On-Call describes exactly what is expected of the carer. Carers can expect to have some sleep but will be on-call to attend to the client as and when needed. They should anticipate being woken once or twice a night for periods of less than 30 minutes. Carers work close by and/or use visual/audio monitors to know when they are required.
Sometimes referred to as ‘Sleepover’ Nights. Carers should anticipate being able to sleep through the whole night and are present as a responsible adult; someone who may be called on for very occasional, unpredictable needs or emergencies, for example, if a client has infrequent seizures.
They may also work in tandem with a Waking Night or On-Call Night carer, who may need a second person in an emergency, for example, to safely evacuate the client should there be a fire. A nightly Sleeping Allowance can be agreed but if the carer is required at any time during the shift, those hours must meet National Minimum Wage requirements.
Why sleeping roles may change – even within a shift...
From Waking Night to On-Call Night
The client may initially require Waking Night support, but as their condition stabilises or improves, On-Call night support may be adequate. For example, a client has severe nocturnal seizures and requires a Waking Night Carer. He is prescribed a new medication and after 6 months his seizures have reduced so significantly, that he only has occasional nocturnal seizures. Or a young client constantly wakes during the night. It is thought this is due to her physical disability causing discomfort, but with a good nighttime routine, it is evident her needs are behavioural, and she now sleeps through the night, only needing to be repositioned once or twice.
If changes are likely/anticipated, it is advisable to recruit for a temporary or fixed-term role, the same person is unlikely to want to change the job they initially applied for. Sometimes, a completion bonus is paid at the end of the temporary period if the desired outcome has been achieved.
From On-Call Night to Waking Night
If a client’s condition or health deteriorates this may require the role to be changed from an On-Call to a Waking Night role. This may be a temporary change, for example, the client is recovering from surgery or is unwell. The carer’s hourly rate should reflect the work they are required to do. If they are required to attend to the client 3 or more times, for periods of 30 minutes or more, or if they are awake for an extended period, it is accepted they will get little or no sleep and so rates should revert to Waking Night rates for the full shift.
If the changes are permanent, it must be re-assessed if the carer can work a Waking Night: What are their commitments during the day? Can they work Waking Nights? This is a role that requires stamina and a change in sleep patterns.
Facilities Required for the Night Carer
The minimum facilities to be provided for a carer are:
- A comfortable chair
- For On-Call and Sleeping Night roles, a suitable bed. You may ask carers to bring/take their own bedding if the bed is shared with other carers.
- Access to tea and coffee-making facilities, a fridge, sink and toilet.
See our wage recommendations for all support roles including night roles.
If you have any questions about night support, please contact one of the Snap Care team on: 020 7729 2200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org we will be happy to help.