Can you believe it’s already March?! This year has gone by so quickly already including, believe it or not, the month of night shifts I was dreading. As a student, night shifts lead me to being a walking, barely talking, zombie with no social life. Over a year later and this is what I imagined night shifts as a qualified nurse would be like- only this time with added responsibility. If you’re new to night shifts too you’ll be pleased to hear that this hasn’t been the case. In an attempt to rid the night-shift fear , I’m going to talk about what helped me to survive my first block of night shifts as a qualified nurse.
Preparing for the Shift
Of course a nurses off-duty is very specific depending on where they work however for many, working night shifts mean an extra day off. This rest day allows you to re-arrange your sleep pattern- making your first night shift a hell of a lot easier. For me, it really helps to stay awake the night before my first night shift for as long as possible. My bed & I do have a very good relationship, which can make this awfully difficult, however I’m usually able to force my eyes open by occupying myself with a good book or browsing the internet until about 4 am. This means that I’ll sleep for longer & manage to stay awake the following night a hell of a lot better!
Obviously, altering your sleep pattern like this means you are sleeping until the early afternoon. It could help to tell your family & friends your work schedule so they don’t call or visit while you are trying to sleep. I also know a few people who leave signs on the door to inform the post man not to knock with deliveries (although this has never been an issue for me since my post man hasn’t once made an attempt to deliver my parcels before writing a little red note and telling me to pick it up the next working day).
Finally, prepare what you are going to eat when at work. I’m not talking about fitness guru style meal prep- but think of different ideas of easy meals you could take to work to keep your energy levels high. It also helps to have some healthy snacks (though I’m guilty of sugar cravings & so always make sure I have a Fibre One Brownie or Chocolate and Caramel Alpen Bar in my bag to recharge).
Look after Yourself
If you’ve taken time to prepare your food and organise snacks for throughout the night- make sure you eat them! Another difference between day and night shifts are that you have the opportunity to take some time out & use your break (which isn’t always possible in amongst the mayhem throughout the day).
Similarly, make sure to drink a lot of water. Staying hydrated will help you to remain alert. I need to follow my own advice with this one. I need to replace some of my cups of coffee with water- I’ll start this tonight.
Night shifts are important and night nurses see a lot (some of which you wouldn’t expect). For a lot of people night times are when they struggle with their mental health most. Whilst working night shifts it has reinforced to me the importance of observing and assessing mental health on a 24 hour basis.
Some people believe that a night shift is waiting around, doing nothing, waiting for people to wake up- however due to the nature of this job it simply isn’t true. Of course we encourage sleep, as people who are well tend to sleep throughout the night, however there is lots to be getting on with during time where there is no patient contact. Be productive & use this time wisely.
And finally, Don’t Stop Life. Yes, at times it can feel draining that you are preparing for a long shift (11 hours in my case) as everyone else is preparing to go to bed- but don’t let this stop you from using your time away from work to do things you enjoy. This could simply be making sure you have plans for your days off- something to look forward to.
I have had a good month of night shifts & will no longer feel daunted by the thought of them- but I am looking forward to being thrown back in to day shifts. Ultimately, my only preference for day shifts are due to the unsociable hours & struggling to find a positive work/ life balance whilst working nights (but I’m sure I’d get used to it- & it’s totally worth it for the wage enhancements!).
Do you prefer day shifts or night shifts? Do you have any tips for surviving night duty? I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,
Love, Kayleigh Rose x