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Working as a nurse is a fulfilling profession; you get to make a difference every day by helping people get better. Unfortunately, it also comes with challenges, one of which is being scheduled for night shift duty. Nightshift nurses have to endure the physical and psychological toll of working in a high-stress environment while doing it against their natural circadian body clock. Here are 10 tips to survive your next nightshift duty:
Most hospital cafeterias close after regular work hours. And even surrounding restaurants and bodegas are out by sundown. If you don’t bring any food for your shift, you either end up grabbing some snacks from the vending machine or not eating anything at all during your shift, both of which are unhealthy. Bring energizing and filling snacks, such as nuts, fruits, turkey sandwiches, or carrot sticks.
Dehydration can induce fatigue and headaches more frequently. Drink water as often as you can. Bring a bottle of cold water to work. Taking sips of cold water during your shift should hydrate and energize you. It’s a common mistake for people to think they are hungry when they are actually just thirsty. Thus, hydrating can also prevent you from reaching for unhealthy food.
It’s easy for nightshift people to forego sleeping a full eight hours during the day to run errands, catch up on their favorite TV shows, or hang out with friends. Sleep deprivation, however, can dull the senses and affect your ability to think clearly and decide logically.
Try to request a midday shift before you go into a fully nocturnal schedule. Going straight from day to night shift can put your body and mind in shock. A gradual transition allows you to adjust without affecting your cognitive faculties.
You’ll want to keep your personal life still running despite not being awake during daytime hours. As soon as you get home from working graveyard, pay your utility bills, follow up on important emails and phone calls, and complete other crucial tasks before you go to sleep. Working nights can cause a lapse in getting other important things done, which can contribute further to work stress.
Most nightshift nurses reach for coffee to keep themselves from falling asleep on the job. But coffee can actually cause dehydration and can prevent you from sleeping quicker once you get home. Similar to the effects of sleeping pills, coffee can disrupt your circadian clock.
Sleeping pills can have toxic effects on your body over time. And as mentioned earlier, it can disrupt your body’s natural clock. It’s better to let your body adjust to your night schedule gradually and naturally.
Nightshift nurses are more prone to fatigue than their dayshift counterparts. Being smart with how you dress can help lower exhaustion and keep you comfortable while at work. For instance, using compression socks for nurses can help avoid swollen feet and promote healthier blood circulation throughout your lower body. Wearing cotton compression socks can also help avoid varicose veins.
If you’re not doing any patient rounds or recording data on your computer, it helps to talk with coworkers rather than just watching something on your phone or staring blankly at a corner. Talking helps keep your mind active and focused.
Before your next nightshift duty, plan your meals, clothes, routes, care plans, etcetera. Nightshift nurses miss out on a lot of what happens during the day, such as your children’s upcoming soccer practice or recital. You’ll want to make sure you’re not just planning for your professional life but for your personal life as well.
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Working as a nightshift nurse has many benefits too – lower work stress and pressure since floors are usually quiet and patients are resting, differential pay, less workplace drama and bureaucracy, and less traffic to get to and from work. Using these 10 life hacks for working nightshifts can give you the stability and footing you need to perform your job proficiently without burning you out quickly.