What are the best ways to survive a night shift?
Whether you love being a night owl or the night shift wasn’t your first choice, all nurses have had to work the night shift. Before you pick up that night 12 hour night, make sure to follow these five essential rules for night nurses to help you get through it.
Eat well to keep your energy up.
It’s tempting to grab a quick coffee or hit the vending machine by the nurse’s station but stay away! Coffee can get you through the first few hours, but a crash is inevitable and will make you only more tired. Combine that with too much junk food, and you’ll be weighed down and tired much more quickly than if you chose the apple over the Snickers bar. Healthy foods like fruits or veggies and water or tea instead of highly caffeinated drinks will keep you full and bump up your energy, enough so that it will carry you through any night shift and make sure you don’t have a nasty crash later.
Get your rest.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to drift into daytime activities such as grocery shopping and paying your bills when you should be resting up for your shift. Of course, those chores need to be taken care of, but try to schedule them in advance, that way you’ll know you’re getting a good 7-8 hours of sleep to prepare for your shift. Schedule in the other things you have to do to accommodate for this sleep time.
Something we often hear from night nurses is that they feel they miss out on opportunities career-wise because they work nights, while decision-making administrators and other hospital staff are working during the day. Don’t let your night schedule get in the way of advancing your career! Volunteer for special projects or events to get noticed by administration. Help out a team member in need if you have a spare second. Just because you don’t work closely with administration staff every day doesn’t mean you can’t get on their radar, and making yourself available and seen is a great way to do that.
Make time for yourself.
Let’s face it: night shifts take a lot out of a nurse. Twelve hours of overnight work is a grueling experience, even for the seasoned professional. You need to do things that make you happy. You make it your life to take care of others, don’t forget to take care of the most critical person in the equation: you!
Attitude is everything.
That said, don’t forget why you’re here in the first place. You’re a nurse. You got into this profession for a purpose greater than yourself, and that is the care of others. When nights are feeling long, you’re hearing the complaints of other night nurses, and all you want to do is sneak away for a nap, remember what you signed up for and keep that attitude going. A positive attitude, especially one that is focused on patient care, can get you through any situation, any shift, and any particularly long night.