Working the night shift can be quite common among nurses, which is inevitable considering how health care doesn’t really abide by business hours. But while the responsibilities between nurses who work the day shift and those who work at night don’t really differ much, working at night does present some unique challenges that can be quite hard to overcome, particularly for those who are new to the shift. A lot of adjustments have to be made, not only in the sleeping and working hours, but also to the different type of atmosphere and routine tasks that night shift nurses have to do.
If you’re about to take on your first night shift nursing position, here are some tips help you:
1. Get adequate amounts of sleep. This might be easier said than done, but sleep is very important, particularly for those who work the night shift. The thing is, with the change in schedule, comes the need to change the sleeping pattern, and it’s not as easy to fall asleep in the daytime. The key here is to make your room as dark and as conducive to sleep as possible. Eliminate possible noise that could jerk you awake, and install thick curtains to block out as much sunlight as possible to ensure uninterrupted sleep so you could feel fresh and energized and ready to take on another night at the hospital.
2. Make healthier food choices – think twice about caffeine. The type of meals and snacks consumed before and during a night shift schedule can significantly affect your energy level at work. Go for healthy yet tasty snacks to be consumed in small amounts frequently throughout your shift in order to keep your energy level up without causing you to crash and burn later or feel sleepy. Also, think twice about consuming caffeine, as it can also disrupt your sleeping pattern. You might find yourself not being able to sleep as easily after your night shift if you drink caffeinated beverages while on your shift.
3. Exercise regularly. Exercise not only keeps people healthy, but it also boosts a person’s energy, which is essential to those working at night. Also, the feeling of fatigue and drowsiness often start around 4 am on a night shift. This can be avoided by staying awake and active around that time, so simple acts like climbing up a set of stairs, or walking to the cafeteria can help re-energize you and keep you awake until your shift ends.
4. Bring a hobby to work. Night shifts are generally a lot less busy than regular morning or evening shifts because, after all, your patients are asleep for the most part. The downside to this is that it can make the shift feel longer, and you might find yourself feeling drowsy mid-shift. Find something you can do when the workload isn’t too busy so you can keep yourself occupied and ward off sleep.
5. Bond with co-workers. This is the best time to chat with your co-workers and bond with them, which can only have a positive effect on the team and promote a healthier and happier working environment. You might not all be wearing the same type of nursing pin, but getting to know each other more can overcome differences in region and backgrounds, and form strong friendships.
One of the benefits for working a night shift as a nurse is the difference in wages. Night shift wages can be up two times higher than normal shifts. Whether this outweighs the obvious downsides, is really a matter of opinion. Working at night is a major shift, not only in sleep patterns, but also in lifestyle. So it’s very important to plan your days accordingly to still get an ample amount of sleep and stay healthy while adjusting to the change in schedule.