What it's like to work as a night nurse

Night shift nursing can be rewarding and manageable with proper time management, mental preparedness, and basic risk mitigation.

Night Shift Nursing Hacks

Though night shift nurses have similar responsibilities to their day shift colleagues, night shift nursing has unique challenges. The night shift alters your natural sleeping cycle, reduces family time, and increases the likelihood of suffering certain chronic disorders, such as diabetes, stroke, cancer, and heart disease.

However, night shift nursing can be rewarding and manageable with proper time management, mental preparedness, and basic risk mitigation. Brooks Rehabilitation, a leading employer for nurses, has shared some effective hacks to help you have a less-stressful night shift nursing experience.

How to Survive Night Shift Nursing

Tell Your Family

Working as a night shift nurse can stress your family and friends just the same as it affects you. For instance, you have to limit the time you spend together, switch off your phone when sleeping, and limit weekends out.

Therefore, it’s important to notify your family that you’re starting night shift work and you might lack free time. That way, your family and friends won’t get frustrated when you’re unavailable for calls or can’t show up for daytime events.

Furthermore, preparing your family could save you from unnecessary calls, knocks on the door, unscheduled meet-ups, and other forms of disturbance when you are trying to get some sleep after a busy night shift.

Get Enough Sleep During the Day

Getting quality sleep after a night shift is essential. It reduces the chances of experiencing burnout and committing avoidable medical errors. Quality sleep also reduces depression, enhances productivity, and improves immune function.

To get enough daytime sleep, establish a sleeping routine specifying when you go to sleep and when you wake up. With such a routine, your body will adapt to the new changes, making it easier to sleep during the day and stay alert at night.

In addition to the schedule, block out light from your bedroom, and wear noise-canceling headphones to eliminate noise. You might also want to avoid regular distractions like phone calls, loud music, and social media during your scheduled sleep time.

Maintain Good Relations With Loved Ones

A disconnection with family can leave you with loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other issues associated with poor socialization. Therefore, when working as a night shift nurse, make sure your busy schedule doesn’t completely disconnect you from family, friends, and leisure time.

Call, email, or text loved ones whenever you can’t stay in physical contact. On your off days and weekends, create time to bond with family, meet friends, and run errands that require your attention.

With proper time management, you can afford healthy interactions with family amidst the busy work schedule.

Choose Your Meals, Drinks, and Snacks Wisely

The type of meals and drinks you take dictate your level of productivity and mental alertness. For instance, fatty, spicy, and sugary foods can make you sluggish, and might make completing your nighttime shift even harder.

So choose your food wisely during and after the night shift. Take your main meal at around 5 or 6 PM to get the much needed energy needed to work throughout the night. Pack fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables if you enjoy snacking.

After the night shift, stick to a light breakfast, since it’s hard to sleep on a full stomach. Furthermore, avoid coffee, alcohol, honey, chocolate, and caffeinated beverages as they can make you alert and less sleepy.

Monitor Your Health and Reduce Risks

According to the National Institute of Health, night shift nursing can increase your risk of depression, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other medical conditions. Furthermore, working at night increases your risk of motor vehicle accidents.

For those reasons, it matters to monitor your blood sugar levels, weight, blood cholesterol, and mental health to identify and treat early warning signs. Working out regularly can also help you manage weight, get better sleep, regulate mood, and reduce the risk of obesity.

To enhance your safety on the road, use public means of transport, carpool with a fellow nurse, and improve your defensive driving skills.

Give Yourself Time to Adjust

On the first days of night shift working, you’ll likely find it hard to sleep during the day and difficult to stay awake the entire night. You might also feel anxious due to the reduced interaction with friends and family. These issues should not cause alarm since they are common — you should get comfortable after a couple of night shifts.

Instead of focusing on the negatives, consider the positives of night shift nursing to boost your motivation: lower workloads, less traffic while commuting to work, and stronger relationships with the other staff working at night

However, if you find it hard to keep up with the night shift, talk to a supervisor to get the support you need to adapt. Otherwise, the unmanaged challenges of night shift nursing could reduce your productivity.

Day Shift vs. Night Shift Nursing

Whether you are working day or night, the responsibilities of nursing remain the same. You must administer medications, monitor patients’ health, provide bedside care, and update patient records. However, each shift has some pros and cons to consider when choosing the best shift for you.

Work Load

Day shift nurses tend to be busier preparing patients for surgery, placing catheters, administering medications, and conducting many more nursing activities. The workload is a result of many patients visiting hospitals during the day. On the contrary, night shifts have a lower workload since they get fewer patients.

Sleep Quality

Day shift nurses tend to sleep better since their bedtime concurs with the body’s natural clock. Contrarily, nighttime nurses are likely to experience poor quality sleep since their rest time goes against the circadian rhythm. Nonetheless, with proper planning and elimination of distractions, night shift nurses can have quality sleep like their counterparts.

Health Considerations

Night shift nurses have an increased risk of chronic diseases since the disruption of the natural sleep cycle increases the chances of getting cancer, sleep disorders, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and other conditions. Nurses can counteract the risks by getting enough sleep and working out frequently.

Social Life

Day shifts have little impact on social life — you interact with several health practitioners during the shift and get enough time with family and friends after work. With a night shift, you interact with fewer nurses at work and may find it hard to get enough time with friends and family during the day.

Join Brooks Rehabilitation’s Nursing Team

Although challenging, it is possible to have a productive and rewarding experience working as a night shift nurse. Follow an established sleep schedule, prepare your family for the challenges, and eat appropriate meals. Work out regularly, keep in touch with people who matter, and watch out for health vulnerabilities.

Join our nursing team at Brooks Rehabilitation to enjoy a supportive working environment that helps you get the most out of your day or night shift.

Join our team.

It’s time to do the best work of your life.

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