Taking on night shifts can be stressful for any nurse - whether they travel or not. Pile on being away from the comforts of home, and family and friends, it can really be strenuous.
Here are a few steps you can take to make your night shift go a little smoother.
Stick To A Normal Routine (As Much As Possible)
Nurses have demanding jobs, and schedules aren’t as cut and dry. There is no 9-5 with weekends off. Sticking to a routine can be easier said than done. You might be asked to take on assignments that require a bit more flexibility. Develop a routine that includes plenty of rest, a healthy diet, and social interactions.
If you take a nap or sleep at a certain point in the day, stick to it. Maintain your daily meal preparation. You may need to teach your body to eat at different periods of the day.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Self-care for nurses is of the utmost importance. Also, be sure to check in with family and friends. Conversations with people you care about can be spirit boosters heading into a night shift.
Consistent Sleep Schedule
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule may be the most difficult to get used to, but sleep is vital and one of the most important things you can do as a nurse who works the night shift. You may think you can get away with a few cat naps to get through. The lack of consistent sleep can catch up to you.
Sleep deprivation can lead to severe consequences. You can compromise your immune system, experience memory loss, and lose focus. All of these points can have an adverse effect on the quality of care you give to your patients.
If you’re having trouble sleeping during the day, consider “tricking” your body into thinking it’s night with these few steps:
- Get blackout curtains
- Get a sleep mask
Also, combine a white noise machine to block out any outside noise, and you’ll be on your way to a restful sleep.
Monitor your caffeine or sugar intake. During your shift, it may seem like a good idea to help get you through the night, but too much can impact your sleep pattern when you’re off the shift. Your body may not be able to fall and stay asleep.
Try to sleep the same amount every day and at the same time. Consistency will lead to better sleep - resulting in better care for your patients.
Monitor Overall Health
Keep tabs on your overall physical health when working the night shift. A healthy and consistent diet is needed. It’s easy to grab some fast food for a quick bite, but your body is going to react negatively to fast food over time.
Carve out some time for meal prep or even prepare meals for the week. When it comes to exercise, some experimenting might be needed to see what you need individually and the times that work for you. A quick jog before your shift might be all you need. A late afternoon workout might be what you need to get the blood pressure and your energy up.
A great way to get through a shift - make a work friend. It can help pass the time if you’re able to connect with a co-worker. Talking and helping each other and just enjoying someone’s company can make those arduous nights more pleasant. It also helps that during a crisis, someone has your back.
Travel nurses who work nights will often treat breakfast as their “happy hour” to build camaraderie among the group. We are social beings - we need interactions to feel good.
Take Advantage of Night
If you’re focused on pay, hospitals may pay more for night shifts giving you a bit more coin in your back pocket. There might be some intervals of quiet. So you can take some time for yourself in between interactions or tasks. You can learn a new skill or take some laps around floors to get in some quick exercise.
The night shift also allows you to take in some sights and explore the city you’re in. After your shift, you can get your sleep, then go sightseeing. Restaurants and attractions are open during the day, so you’re able to take advantage.
Interactions with patients may be more meaningful. They may be afraid of their surroundings and need someone attentive at their side. No one wants to be in a hospital overnight, so the company may make their stay a bit more comfortable.
These tips should come in handy - whether you’re someone who’s a veteran of the night shift or just taking on that role. These suggestions should help your shift go quickly and make your shift much more enjoyable.