Tips for Surviving the Night Shift
Travel nurses often find themselves only working the night shifts where the hours can be long and sometimes boring. That means that often times, you’re fighting sleep, especially when your body reaches its natural low point. If you’re working the night shift and finding it tough to stay alert, these tips can keep you performing at your best – even when the world is sound asleep.
Get plenty of sleep during the day. When you work the hours when other people are typically sleeping, it’s hard to remember that you have to sleep when the world is awake. Unfortunately, if you don’t get enough sleep during the day, surviving the night shift is twice as hard. Try to get at least eight hours of unbroken sleep if possible. Try sleeping in a darkened environment using blackout curtains, and make sure that you silence phones and other devices that might wake you up.
Don’t overdo the caffeine. It’s tempting to rely on cup after cup of coffee to keep you up on your feet when you’re at work, but the more caffeine you consume during your shift, the harder it will be to sleep when you leave work.
Choose your meals carefully. Make sure that you eat a full meal before your shift and bring snacks with you to keep your energy up. You can’t guarantee that the cafeteria will be open or well-stocked during the night shift, and you want to be sure that you have plenty of food to keep your body fueled. Also, make wise food choices as much as possible. A meal heavy in carbohydrates, for example, will have you fighting sleep when the crash comes midway through your shift.
Bring along a hobby to work on during downtime. This can be as simple as a book or something that you’re working on crafting. Just remember that it has to be something that isn’t too consuming, since you want to be alert enough to care for your patients when needed.
Develop relationships with other nurses. Having someone to talk to will make the hours easier to pass and give you something to look forward to throughout your shift.
If it’s feasible, try to leave your floor during your breaks. Go for a walk outside, get some fresh air, or walk around another floor – check out the newborns, for a change of pace. Getting away from your area for a little while will help you wake back up and refocus on your patients once you’re back on duty.
Create balance in your personal life. You’ll still want to spend time focusing on your kids and/or spouse, so make sure you balance your schedule in a way that will allow you to spend time with them, check in with them each day to know how their lives went while you were sleeping, and make it to important events. Check out one of our other blog articles which provides plenty of tips to help you stay in touch with loved ones while on the road.
Working night shift doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. In fact, it can be one of the best parts of your job. It’s a quieter shift, so you can give more one-on-one attention to your patients. Once you learn how to balance your night shift schedule, you might just discover that you love it.