The flickering of fluorescent lights, patients sleeping, custodians cleaning and a slow night in the hospital can be a reality for night shift nurses. The responsibilities are no different for a nurse working day or night shifts; however, nurses have stated that adjusting to a night shift can be extremely challenging for several different reasons including sleeping schedules to even simply being a parent.
These are the best tips on how to survive the night shift nursing schedule for a novice to a seasoned professional.
1. Get enough sleep: As the Chief Nursing Officer at Methodist Charlton Medical Center states, “You have to schedule your sleep. Working at night interrupts your natural sleep patterns.” There are adverse effects the night shift can have on the body of any nurse because it affects their circadian rhythms. The circadian rhythm is the natural process of your brain telling you when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake.
2. Not too much caffeine: It may seem like the number one way to quickly learn how to survive night shift nursing. However too much caffeine can cause the opposite effect that is needed to make it through a night shift. It’s important to have caffeine at the beginning of your shift. The longer you wait, the longer it takes to kick in and the longer you could be awake when you get home.
3. Compression socks: These are a lifesaver for ANY nurse out there. A great pair of compression socks help reduce leg and foot pain from standing, walking and running for a 12 hour shift! The compression socks improve circulation and keep a nurse’s feet and legs from swelling.
4. Step away during breaks: At any moment, it’s important to walk away even for a split second to get a break. Don’t eat at the nursing station if possible and take a break when one has been offered. This can help your patient and yourself.
5. Bond with co-workers: There are less managers, directors of nurses and other staff on hand during a night shift. It’s important for nurses to ask for help from their fellow co-workers when it’s needed. It can seem like you have to do everything on your own, but you don’t! As for help whenever you need and bond with co-workers for support and help with work.
6. Keep busy: A simple tip on how to survive the night shift nursing is keeping busy. The night shift is often categorized as “low key” because doctors, staff and other healthcare professionals aren’t present and patients are sleeping. File paperwork from the day shift, catch up on documentation, follow up with emails and etc. This is the perfect moment to get caught up on those small tasks.
7. Manage stress: For any shift, a nurse needs to understand the signs of burnout and how to prevent it. It’s common for nurses to feel a detachment from long shifts, too many patients, high-stress situations consistently and always putting others before yourself.
8. Invest in the best storage: The right storage can help increase productivity, reduce hunting and gathering, mitigate lost or stolen items, provide a central location for medication and supplies.
Even if the night shift is considered less stressful than the day shift, understand each poses their own set of challenges for nurses and other healthcare professionals. These tips on how to survive night shift nursing could be used for all nurses.
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