Imagine it is the middle of the night, and you are in your ward trying to stay awake. Your eyes are getting droopy, and you need more coffee to keep working. So, you end up drinking a few extra cups, but things do not seem to get any better. What a nightmare!
Night shifts in hospitals are challenging. Your routine requires several adjustments to get used to the atmosphere during late hours. It is impossible to fight off sleep and deal with unruly patients. However, night shifts also have several benefits, such as a better pay scale and a slower pace of work.
Night nurses also forget to take care of themselves. This is primarily because the body is conditioned to work in the day and sleep at night. Regardless, it is necessary to keep an eye on your health before helping others. You can follow several tips to fight off sleep and remain productive as a night shift nurse. We’ve listed a few of them below.
- Always have snacks ready: Not every hospital has a 24-hour cafeteria to get something nutritious to eat and drink. Furthermore, it is necessary to maintain energy levels during shifts, especially when they can get dreary during the night. A healthy snack can be a lifesaver. Therefore, bring a granola bar or a smoothie to energize yourself. Also, refrain from unhealthy snacks in the vending machine.
- Enroll in online courses: Since things are slow at night, the shifts feel longer. During the day, nurses have to liaise with doctors, supervisors, and directors. Comparatively, most patients are sleeping at night. So, you can use your time constructively. Take this time to upskill your nursing practice. This way, you’ll be able to focus on upgrading yourself while also killing time during the night. To make things more convenient, opt for a distance learning program. Online degrees are an excellent choice because you can enroll and complete them from anywhere, anytime. Therefore, sign up for online DNP programs or other specialized nursing courses, depending on your current job, education level, and future goals. It is an excellent way to spend spare time on the night shift wisely. Or you could also…
- Keep yourself busy with other stuff: Use this time to do extra work, like completing patient records, data entry, etc. Some nurses also try to spend time with patients who are awake. Doing so will improve patient care and patient engagement. Though try not to peddle the rumor mill.
- Let your administrators know about your work: Night shifts make things complicated. On the one hand, the pace of work is slow with fewer disruptions. On the other hand, it is difficult to tell others how much you work. So, engage your administrators and volunteer for new projects. Keep in touch with them and apprise them of any developments during your shift, especially your upskilling plans. This way, you could get noticed for a promotion.
- Get enough sleep: Sleep is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. A lack of sleep disrupts cognition and affects memory. As night shifts interrupt your sleep patterns, you must be careful to get eight hours of sleep during the day. However, it is difficult to fall asleep when you change your sleep schedule. So, you might have to create an environment conducive to sleep. For example, darken the room and turn down the thermostat. Remember to prioritize sleep when you go back from work. Keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule. Try to sleep as much as you can without taking sleeping pills.
- Do not over caffeinate yourself: Drink coffee to keep your skills sharp and stay upbeat. But do not overdo it. While caffeine can help wake you up, it also has detrimental effects. Drinking too much coffee can increase blood pressure and make people anxious. It is also addictive and disrupts your sleep patterns. So, build your routine around your circadian rhythm.
- Monitor your health: The night shift has a detrimental effect on your physical and mental wellness. Therefore, nurses must monitor their health to prevent chronic illnesses. Night shift workers are at risk of diabetes, colds, and weight gain. So, wear a watch with a health app to monitor your vitals.
- Move around: Sitting for nine hours in the same position can get tedious. Furthermore, we experience drowsiness and fatigue during early hours. So, exhausted nurses make more errors. Try to fight against fatigue to reboot energy levels. Stand up and walk around the ward to get your adrenaline pumping after every hour. You can also do some light exercises, such as climbing a flight of stairs or shooting hoops to get your heart pumping.
- Balance work with home life: The worst thing about working night shifts is that it makes nurses feel isolated from family and friends. It may seem like you are constantly missing out on opportunities to connect with others. Therefore, try to work harder to maintain personal relationships. Ask your loved ones to get on the same page as you so you can juggle your commitments. For example, your significant other can take over your childcare responsibilities for you. You can also divide responsibilities to avoid stress.
- Get home safely: Driving while sleepy is dangerous. It can also be life-threatening. As a night shift nurse, not only do you have to survive your shift, but you must also get home safely. Therefore, consider carpooling with a night shift colleague to avoid falling asleep at the wheel.
Nurses are modern-day heroes. They battle with several issues to provide high-quality care to their patients. But night-time nurses have it slightly harder than usual. Not only do they have to care for patients, but they must do it while battling drowsiness. This article mentioned a few tips for you to manage the night shift. Always have healthy snacks ready. Use the slow pace of work more productively by opting to upskill or completing record-keeping. Monitor your vitals, get ample sleep, and don’t chug too much caffeine. Ask your friends and family to help you around with other tasks. And try to drive home safely after a long dreary night.