Every night, nurses put on their scrubs and head to work while almost everyone else in the country is sleeping. While everyone else is driving home at 5 p.m., the nurses working the night shift could just be getting started.
But working these night shifts may be coming at a cost. According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, night shift work can cause health problems and many of these nurses are at risk for a variety of chronic illnesses such as heart disease. Nurses who work late and long night shift hours may not be functioning at their best which can make it unsafe for patients resulting in poor patient outcomes.
But these roles are critical to our health care system. So how can you work a night shift and avoid these potential health risks?
Be the best you can be for yourself and your patients with these 4 survival tips for night shift nurses.
Don’t Abuse Caffeine
It’s no surprise that nurses working the night shift will need a couple cups of coffee to stay awake through the night. But never go overboard with your caffeine intake. If you drink too much caffeine it can lead to the jitters or a crash later on. Take it slow and don’t drink more than you need.
Take Your Sleep Seriously
Sleep is important to anyone, no matter what the profession. But working at night interrupts your natural sleep pattern. You’ll need to take measures to create an environment conducive for sleep by disconnecting things that will disrupt your sleep such as phones or the doorbell. Consider investing in blackout drapes for your bedroom to help you get in some good sleep during the day hours. If there are lots of daytime noises like lawn mowers or dogs barking, try some earplugs to block out the noise. Also, it’s important to get into a new sleep routine as soon as possible—go to bed the same time and get up the same time every day.
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Make Smart Snack & Meal Choices
Although it’s easy to just grab something to eat at the hospital each night, try bringing your own snacks and meals to work to make healthier choices. Try these night shift diet tips from LIVESTRONG for some healthy and delicious ideas. The food you select to chow down on during the night shift can have a significant effect on your stamina, energy and performance levels. If you indulge in processed or greasy food, it can zap energy and cause a “crash-and-burn” effect later on in the shift. Opt for well-balanced meals that include high-protein and complex carbohydrates.
Find that Work-Life Balance
It can be tough to find that perfect work-life balance while being a nurse night shifter. But it can be done—it’s all about planning ahead. Prioritize your needs including sleep, eating healthy, exercise and time for personal relationships and family. Nurses who work the night shift may experience bouts of feeling isolated from friends and family who have very different schedules. Facilitate constant communication with loved ones through texts, emails and phone calls and schedule meetup times to make sure you have face to face time.
The nursing profession is full of challenges and rewards. These helpful tips for night shift nurses will help navigate the ups and downs and treat your mind and body with the care and respect they need to make the night shift work best for you.
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