As a nurse, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your career is to focus on self-preservation. That seems simple enough, but for night shift nurses, taking self-care measures are incredibly important. After the workday has ended and most people are cleaning up after their dinner, nurses working the night shift are just getting started.
Caring for patients doesn’t stop because the sun has gone down. Even for patients not in critical condition or that will sleep through the night, they will still need to be monitored. Night shift nurses have the challenge of managing what is considered to be a less busy or stressful work shift.
Shift workers, including nurses, are at an increased risk for various chronic illnesses. These workers also tend to have higher levels of adverse health outcomes and occupational injuries. Furthermore, night shift nurses who work extra long hours may see poorer patient outcomes.
Survival Tips for Night Shift Nurses
Whether you are a nurse that is new to the nighttime shift, or you’re a seasoned night shift nurse, here are some tips that beneficial for your health.
1. Understand the Circadian Clock
You’re a nurse, so you probably already know what the circadian clock is. However, it also plays a role in controlling heart rate, body temperature, hormones, and other functions. When you have a deeper understanding the effect your circadian rhythm plays, you can learn some ways to thrive on the night shift.
For example, your body is used to sleeping during the night hours. Night shift nurses may start to crave sleep between the hours of midnight and 6 AM. If you know this, then you know during these hours, you can come up with a way to stay awake and alert.
2. Know the Need of Night Time Patients
The night shift is typically a little less busy than other shifts because most residents will be sleeping. Yes, most of your patients will be dreaming during the night shift, but you still need to be aware of some things.
Once a patient’s family leaves, they may need a little more reassurance at night. Patients that are not confused during the day may have some confusion at night. They may be scared or feel they are in a strange environment when the lights go out.
Since this shift is less busy, this may present the opportunity for you to sit down and spend quality time with your patients. If you are in a senior care setting, the residents may especially appreciate this.
3. Food on the Brain
For night shift nurses, it might be easy to just eat whatever is available from the hospital cafeteria or vending machine every night. For the most part, you should bring your own lunch so that you can control what you eat. When you are in control of your meals, you can choose healthier options.
Don’t forget to hydrate! Think of how often you tell your patients they need to drink water – don’t forget for yourself! The more hydrated your body is, the better your body functions. The night shift is less busy so you probably won’t need to worry about the extra bathroom breaks!
4. Catching Zs
Night shift nurses obviously will have to sleep during the day so they can work at night. One thing that many nurses said has helped them sleep through the day is blackout drapes. They will keep the room dark by limiting the amount of sunlight.
If you’re going to be working the night shift often, create a sleep pattern and stick to it – even on the days you don’t work. This will help you make sure you are getting the right amount of sleep, and doing the best to help you body adjust to your new sleep cycle.
5. Bond with your Colleagues
If there is anyone else in the world that is going to understand the struggles you have as a night shift nurse in your organization, it is your fellow colleague. If there are veteran night shift nurses, they will probably have all sorts of tips and tricks to remain alert and pass the time.
The camaraderie you build with them will also make it that much easier to go to work each evening. When you bond with your fellow nurses, you can start to really enjoy your job.