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How Do I Prepare For Night Shift Nursing?

Night shifts as a Nurse are you're tired, and you realise the saying' nothing good happens after midnight isn't a myth. But everything is always worse when you haven't prepared properly. So, here are some tips to make sure you've prepared your snacks, sleeping schedule, and sanity appropriately. We know how important it is to keep healthy, especially if you're a nurse, doctor, support worker or any healthcare professional caring for other people. But, looking after yourself can be a challenge, especially when working at night. So, to help you prepare and recover from the sleepless night shift.

As with many careers in health care, the work needs to be done 24/7. A night shift nurse is a professional nurse responsible for taking care of patients during the nighttime hours. These hours that you would work are frequently different from your typical 9 am to 5 pm day shift job, or even the 7 am to 3 pm days. Nurses who work night shifts are busy taking care of patients, but they also have to do administrative tasks. In addition, they must document medical information that relates to their patient's care, their status, and what happens during the shift. You will find night shift nurses working in almost all medical settings, such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, doctor's offices via telehealth, and some outpatient clinics.

Tips For Working Night Shift

Sleep Well

It's an obvious one, but most Nurses who work nightshift don't prepare their bodies for sleep correctly. If you have a couple of days before your nightshift roster begins, here are the best ways to gradually ease into the sleep pattern that will save you.​

  • Eat dinner later in the evening. This fuels your body, helping it stay up a little later than usual.
  • Try to sleep in, or at least stay in bed, a little longer each day.
  • Get black-out curtains or a sleep mask to trick your body into thinking it's midnight instead of noon.
  • Have a pre-work power nap. After a solid few hours of sleep, wake up and pull yourself out of your natural deep sleep cycle. But before getting ready for work, have another 20-30 minute doze—this will refresh your eyes and body without making you feel groggy.

Food-Prep

Food preparation is not just for the gym junkies of the world—it's also for the people who don't need, nor want, to stress over what they're eating before entering a 10 pm-7 am shift. In the days leading up to your dreaded night shift, decide on a meal that you enjoy but isn't full of carbs or sugars. There's nothing worse than working on an overly full stomach, so try to steer away from foods that are free from heavy ingredients while focusing on vegetables and natural sugars.

Get Active

Exercise not only helps you stay energised and focused, but it also naturally tires your body. Go to the gym or do a lap around the block to fuel your muscles, helping you drift more easily into sleep during the day. Before you begin your shift, it's a good practice also to stretch out your worked muscles, reinvigorating them.

Limit Caffeine

Your eyes are droopy, and you need a boost, so you reach for the Red Bull can that's eyeing you off at the vending machine.

Don't Fall Into This Trap.

High-caffeinated drinks are designed to give you a short and big burst of energy, so at the moment, you feel energised. But then you crash. You'll end up feeling worse than you did before. Plus, the caffeine will remain in your brain for hours, making it harder to fall asleep.

Drive Safe

It's over. You've made it. But before jumping behind the wheel, take a minute. As a nurse, you know that sleep-deprived drivers are the leading cause of car accidents behind drunk driving. So take your time and drive safely.

Sleep Well

Yes, we know we already said this. But it's important to try to go to bed straight away as soon as you make it. Light is sleep's enemy, and you want a good sleep—because you're probably going to do it all over again tomorrow.

FAQs About Night Shift Nurses

Only the nurses and patients are usually present during the night shift, which allows nurses to administer excellent patient care on a more intimate level. During the night shift, most of your patients are sleeping, which allows you more one on one time with your patients that are awake.

Do not delay going to bed. The longer you delay going to bed, the more awake you are likely to become. So instead, set aside a block of 7–9 hours to dedicate to sleep after a night shift.

It takes about ten days for the body to adjust to night shift work. However, it is common for night shift workers to revert to daytime routines for a day or two during days off, which makes the circadian rhythm unstable.

Night workers can feel cold, shaky, nauseous, sleepy and tired at this time. This is a normal reaction as the body is programmed to be less active at this time. It can be difficult to stay awake, especially if work demands are low. Eat and drink something warm (avoid caffeine) during this period and keep busy.

Bring a bottle of water to work. Water can help you stay alert and not feel so tired during your shift. Avoid drinking sugary soft drinks and alcohol before, during, and after work. Unsweetened herbal tea and low sodium 100% vegetable and fruit juices are other nutritious beverages that you can drink.

Preparing For Night Shift

Bring Your Family On Board

Working the night shift means changes for your family or your roommates. They must understand the need to sleep during the day and the demands that work at night place on their body and mind. Make sure you talk about what these changes mean for all of you and get their support in the days ahead. Also, schedule times, like breakfast on your workdays, to have meals together and stay connected.

Understand The Demands

As a nurse, you must provide your patients with proper and safe medical care, no matter the hour. You must be physically ready for the challenges of night shift work, and you also must be emotionally ready to deal with the demands of your job, no matter the hour. Your mental abilities need to be at their best, so you can meet your patients' needs thoroughly. This is not always easy, especially if your body is not used to night work, but there are ways you can keep your body and mind going well on your overnight shift.

Focus On Quality Nutrition

A carb-heavy or sugar-heavy diet can make you feel more tired than you are. One way to avoid problems on your shift is to focus on your nutrition. Eat whole, balanced meals, and avoid loading up on sugar and refined carbohydrates. Give your body the fuel it needs to function well throughout your entire shift, and you will be able to stay more alert and aware throughout the night.

Use Breaks Wisely

Nurses sometimes get few breaks, but you should still get some. Use them well. Never skip a break. Use that time to eat some nutritious food if possible. If your hospital or facility has a rest area, take a nap. You will be surprised how much a 20-minute nap will improve your overall function when you get back on the floor. Always use an alarm and check your hospital's policy on napping before laying down, but do this if you can.

Monitor Your Sleeping And Waking Schedule On Days Off

If you try to sleep and be awake during "normal" hours on your non-nursing days, you may throw your body off. It may not be possible to maintain nighttime awake hours and daytime sleep hours when managing a family, so you need to be careful. Never stay up for the full 12 hours before a night shift because your body needs sleep. Instead, try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every 24 hours, even when working the night shift, so that you will be able to function.

Stay Hydrated

Becoming dehydrated will increase feelings of tiredness. Keep a bottle of water on hand and use it. Yes, this may mean more trips to the restroom, but your body and mind cannot function properly if you rob them of water. When considering what you should drink, try to avoid too much caffeine. It may give you a burst of energy, but you will likely fall into a slump when the burst wears off. Plain water is always best.

Keep Moving

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Movement releases adrenaline, and adrenaline will help you stay awake. If you have a moment where you are standing or sitting at a desk to do some charting, try to walk in place. The more you move, the more awake you will feel and the better your mood. Remember, you'll have the chance to rest on your next break or when your shift is over, so stay active.

Create Relationships With Coworkers

When you work the night shift, you will need other nurses to have your back. So build relationships with the people you're working with. You may find that some of them are veteran night shift workers, and they can offer a wealth of information to help you manage your time and your energy on this challenging shift. Having strong relationships will also mean you have someone who can step in and help if you find yourself getting sleepy, especially as your body adjusts to this new normal.

Also, build relationships with the other nurses who will take over for you. It would be best to communicate well during shift transition to avoid patient needs. Having a positive relationship will help you communicate well with the other nurses in your facility.

Give Yourself Time And Grace

It will take time to adjust to night shifts. Make sure you give yourself some grace during this adjustment period. Your first couple of weeks working the night shift will be tough. You will adjust, though. It just takes some time.

Benefits Of Working On The Night Shifts As A Nurse

Better Pay Rates

First things first. Is there even a better motivation to work night shifts? It is no secret that night shifts are getting paid more. When you compare pay rates for the same position for a day and night shifts, you will notice the difference. You will probably get around £4-5/hr more for working at night (varies). And sometimes more. So this is a leading factor with most of the nurses.

Less Interaction With Patients And Their Families 

Okay, we don't want to sound rude here at all! Nurses love their jobs and helping outpatients. But let's be honest. At some point, it can get just too much to handle. With most patients asleep during the late shift, nurses can be more focused on their paper works and other duties. Add the absence of constant moaning by their families, and there you go – heaven. 

More Freedom And Less Management

While you can barely find time to breathe during the day shifts, night shifts come with significantly more freedom. You can snack at your desk and respond to messages on your phone without having to worry about who's watching you. Amazing. You can taste the sense of liberty.

Top Cons Of Being A Night Shift Nurse

You May Be Working With A Less Seasoned Staff

One of the biggest cons of being a night shift nurse is that you will be working with much less seasoned nurses. The older staff members usually do not want to work nights. As a result, you are stuck working with staff members that do not have much experience. The shift can be scary at times.

You, Will, Have Fewer People To Call If There Is An Emergency.

When working as a nurse on the night shift, you are working alone most of the time. There is less staff on duty, so fewer people will call for help if something goes wrong. However, if an emergency should arise, you will need to call in the doctors from home. This is a bit scary since fewer people help you in an emergency.

You Are More Prone To More Health Issues.

One of the top disadvantages of being a night shift nurse is the adverse effects on your health. A common problem among night shift nurses is their propensity to develop health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, due to metabolic changes that result from lack of sleep. Night shift nursing can also affect a nurse's eyesight by working in such dim lighting. Night shift nurses are also at greater risk for developing age-related macular degeneration than nurses who work regular day shifts. Wow, who knew working nights could be so bad for you.

You May Find It Hard To Juggle Your Family.

When evaluating the pros and cons of being a night shift nurse, you will need to keep in mind that this schedule may impact your ability to bond with family members. If you stay up through the night and sleep during the day, you will miss family time together. Your children may go off to school while you're still asleep. As for spouses, it can be challenging to establish a common schedule when one of you is working the night shift. If you have a child too young for school or daycare, you will either have to hire somebody to watch them while you sleep or not get to sleep. You will have to be awake when the child is awake.

Your Dining Choices Will Be Few

As a night shift nurse, you will most likely find yourself having to bring all your food with you. You will never have a break from cooking. As a night shift nurse, your dinner time is when everyone is asleep. This means restaurants will be closed. Slim pickings.

Your Safety Can Be An Issue.

One of the cons of being a night shift nurse is being concerned about your safety. You will be walking to and from your car in the dark at times. The world is a much scarier place when you can't see in front of your face. Not seeing all the movements in front of you can create uneasiness during the night shift. Night shift nurses should take precautions to stay safe.

Top Pros Of Being A Night Shift Nurse

You May Have A Monetary Incentive.

One of the most significant advantages of working the night shift as a nurse is that many healthcare facilities will give you a monetary incentive for working this shift. For instance, a hospital may pay you an extra five dollars for each hour you work at night. This is often viewed as a safety net to keep nurses from being burned out from working nights too much. When weighing the pros and cons of being a night shift nurse, you need to decide if the monetary incentive is worth working nights. Working nights is hard but, working nights can be a great way to pay off debt or build up your savings account.

You Will Not Have To Interface With Management.

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Another one of the advantages of being a night shift nurse is that you will not have to play nice in the sandbox with management. Those in managerial positions are typically home by the time your shift starts. This means that you will not have to put on your happy face or be in a good mood when seeking direction. You will also not need to worry about being micromanaged by your superiors.

There Will Be Fewer Changes To Your Patient's Care At Night.

One of the perks of working as a night shift nurse is that you mostly will have minor changes in your patient's care plan. Having fewer changes in your patient's care plan means that you essentially have to keep everyone stable till morning. Therefore, it can be less stressful than working days because you don't have to keep up with the constant changes in patients' conditions.

There Will Be Fewer Procedures That Will Be Performed At Night.

One of the pros of being a night shift nurse is that you will find that no elective procedures will be performed. Since you will not be helping perform many procedures, there is no added stress related to the procedure and its schedule. This means that you will not have to worry about helping with procedures and all the time-consuming documentation that comes along with it.

If You Are Going Back To School, You May Have A Reasonable Amount Of Time To Complete Your Work.

If you are a night shift nurse pursuing higher education, working the night shift is conducive to getting your work done and studying. You can essentially get all of the care you need to with your patients completed, tuck them in for the night, and then hit the books.

You, Will, Have Plenty Of Time To Complete Errands And Any Appointments.

One of the advantages of being a night shift nurse is that you will have every morning and afternoon off. This is prime time for running errands and scheduling appointments. You essentially do not have to worry about not completing tasks throughout your day. You can go to the bank, grocery store, mall, and drug store. It also gives you time to take care of yourself, such as going to the gym or getting a massage. The possibilities are endless.

Conclusion

It's safe to say that being a night shift nurse is not for the faint-hearted. So, what are the pros and cons of being a night shift nurse? The night shift can be fraught with challenges, bringing certain benefits. Whether you're considering becoming a hospital nurse who works at night or you are just curious about what are the potential challenges people face when they do this type of job all the time, I'm sure the top 10 pros and cons of being a night shift nurse we discussed in this article will help you decide if this career path may or may not be suitable for you!

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