10 Survival Tips for Night Shift Nurses

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How do nurses deal with night shifts? The hospital and other health care facilities function 24/7 and even at night you could see nurses running from one room to another, it makes you wonder, how they cope and if they are doing fine. If you are looking for a travel nursing job, you could find the best travel nurse jobs at Advantage Medical Professionals.

How do I become a good night shift nurse?

  1. Analyze your current schedule
  2. Prepare your home and your housemates
  3. Plan your schedule over the course of a week
  4. Shed some light on your wake-up times
  5. Make wise choices.

Tips for Night Shift Workers:

  1. Use Caffeinated Products Wisely

Drinking caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, or sodas help maintain alertness during the night shift but it is also important not to overdo caffeinated products because that would open a whole new door of issues.

  1. Monitor Your Health

Working the night shift could affect you mentally and physically. You have to always monitor your health since night shift workers face a higher risk of insomnia, daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure, diabetes, menstrual irregularities, colds, and weight gain.

  1. Exercise or Get Active to Stay Alert

You have to schedule everything as the day shifts do. Despite being on the night shift, you have to make sure that you are still active to keep your body healthy.

  1. Get an Adequate Amount of Sleep

Working the night shift interrupts sleeping patterns so you have to schedule your sleep. Night shift nurses must teach their bodies how to properly fall asleep for long periods of time without any interruptions so once you get home, put on black-out curtains to fully block the sunlight out to create an environment that is conducive for sleep.

  1. Make Healthier Meal and Snack Choices

Meals that you choose before and during the night shift can have a big effect on your energy, stamina, and performance levels. You have to choose the items that give you energy but do not cause sleepiness or crash-and-burn effect later on in the shift. 

  1. Bond with Your Co-Workers

Bonding with your co-workers only makes the shift easier to handle, and through communications between you and your co-workers, the likelihood of the shift running smoothly increases.

  1. Find Constructive Ways to Keep Busy

Since most of the patients are sleeping during the night shift, it would allow you to do more one-on-one time with your patients who are awake. You could get to know them or try to get any extra work done that could potentially help the day shift nurses.

  1. Learn How to Accommodate the Circadian Clock

The circadian clock is the human body’s natural inclination to follow a 24-hour cycle.

  1. Create a Healthy Balance on the Home Front

Balancing everything is not easy, but you have to learn how to manage all these tasks and at the same time, make sure you have time for family. This is where scheduling comes in handy.

  1. Get Home Safely

You could carpool with another nurse and hold a conversation with the driver, choose public transportation, do not stop for a drink with your co-workers, and wear wraparound sunglasses when you are driving home to protect your eyes from the sudden sunlight.

Psychological Effects of Working Night Shift

  1. Changes Your Metabolism

Your metabolism is governed by hormones. The hormone leptin plays a critical role in regulating weight, blood sugar, and insulin levels but working the night shift could interfere with the production of this vital hormone which could mess up with your metabolism.

  1. Suppresses Melatonin

Since you are exposed to light when your body expects dark, it could suppress melatonin production and release. Melatonin is the one responsible for controlling the sleep and wake cycles. When you have a decrease in melatonin, you won’t sleep deeply or get enough sleep for your body to be able to fully repair itself and could lead to sleep deprivation.

  1. Interferes with Natural Sleep Rhythms

Sleep is the time where your body recharges, gets rid of toxins, repairs injury, and reduces your stress but working the night shift completely interferes with that essential process, which could lead to many of the disorders on this list.

  1. Increases the Risks of Heart Attack

Working the night shift, according to the British Medical Journal, has a 7 percent increase in the likelihood of a person to suffer from a heart attack. A big factor as to why that is because your change in sleep habit affects blood pressure and blood circulation.

  1. Risk of Breast Cancer

Nurses, especially women, who work overnight are at a much greater risk of contracting breast cancer than those who work only during the day. 

  1. Risk of Workplace Injury

Since your body’s natural inclination is to turn off certain key functions like consciousness and mobility during the night shift, there would be less focus, attention, productivity, and fine motor skills since your body wants to shut down causing a bigger possibility of you getting injured while you are working.

  1. Gastrointestinal Problems

All the effects that were mentioned in this list could accumulate and cause some gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and ulcer.

  1. Obesity and Diabetes

This goes in line with your metabolism. Sleeping during the day and working during the night could lead to obesity and diabetes because of the imbalanced hormone production, even if you eat a healthy diet.

Nursing Night Shift Routine

Typically, night shifts are between 11:00 pm and 7:00 am, and some may even start as early as 8:00 pm. They do their shift and then go home in the wee hours of the morning to exchange shifts with nurses who are taking the day shifts. 

Night shifts could be hard, having little to no sleep, struggling to stay awake, and having to take extra care of your body. You could consider using your brakes to take a 15-20 minute power nap or do quick cardio to keep yourself awake and for you to survive your shift.