Although the duties and responsibilities associated with night shift nursing are similar to those during the day shift, working the night shift poses unique challenges that can affect your physical and emotional health. If you are looking for tips for night shift nursing that will help you to survive the perils of working the third shift, review the list below.
1. Eat Before Your Shift
If you are working night shift as a nurse, it is important that you eat before your shift, because it will allow you to maintain your energy, stamina, and performance levels throughout the night. However, be sure to eat healthy foods, so you do not feel sleepy or suffer from the “crash and burn” effect. Opt for a well-balanced meal that includes complex carbohydrates, protein, and minimal fat. Also, bring portable healthy snacks to work, such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
2. Don’t Overdo It on the Coffee
Coffee might seem like a godsend on a night shift, but drinking too much of it can lead you to crash and burn. For the best results, drink moderate amounts of coffee in the first four hours of your shift to offset fatigue. Avoid drinking coffee toward the end of your shift, because it could prevent you from falling asleep when you are ready to go home.
3. Find Ways to Keep Busy During Your Shift
Depending on the type of floor you work on, many patients will be sleeping throughout the night shift and their will likely be a smaller staff on duty. Although you will still be responsible for rounds and administrating meds, your patient care tasks may be somewhat limited. However, it is important to keep busy so that you remain alert in the case of emergency. The night shift may give you the time to perform administrative duties, such as updating charts, filling out admissions/ discharge papers, and replenishing pharmaceutical and supplies.
4. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Nurses working the night shift experience interruptions in their natural sleep patterns, which makes it important for them to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Strive to keep the same bedtime and wake schedule to ensure that you get enough rest. Try to keep consistent even on your days off, so that you are not forced to adjust to drastic schedule changes when you have to go back to work.
5. Unwind When You Get Home Before Going to Sleep
After working a long night shift, give yourself a little bit of time to decompress when you get home before going to bed. This will help you to relax, unwind, and to ultimately sleep better.
6. Create a “Night Time” Environment in the Bedroom
Use blackout curtains, earplugs, a sleep mask, and other sleep aids to create a “night time” environment in your bedroom and eliminate distractions that could prevent you from falling asleep.
7. Avoid Sleep Medication
Avoid taking sleep medication, because it can alter your sleep patterns, make your sleep less restful, and create a bad sleep habit. Taking sleep medication can also give you a hangover of sorts that leads to poor performance on the job.
8. Take Care of Personal Errands When You Are the Most Alert
It is best to run errands when you are the most alert, so you do not make careless mistakes or cause an accident. Try to make time for errands shortly after you wake up so you are not stuck dealing with them after a long night shift.
9. Keep Healthy
Working the night shift can have a detrimental effect on your health if you are not careful. Stay healthy by getting your sleep, eating a balanced diet, and working exercise into your schedule.
10. Make Time to Stay Connected with Your Friends and Family
Working the night shift can make it more difficult to spend quality time with friends and family members who have conflicting schedules. Planning ahead can help to ensure that you stay connected. Set aside time for your friends and family, either before your shift or on your days off, so that you can maintain healthy relationships with your loved ones.
Learning how to adapt to a different schedule is one of the most difficult challenges that a night shift nurse must overcome. Your sleeping and awake time will be the opposite of most other people. Follow our night shift nursing tips to ensure that you can stay healthy and happy while you work the third shift.