4 Tips for Powering Through Night Shifts

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People generally don't decide to start a nursing degree program because they enjoy certainty, crave a predictable 9-5 schedule and thrive in an environment marked with a consistent routine.

On the contrary, an intense desire to help people, the thrill of saving a life and having a solid support system allows people to blossom as a well-trained nurse or respiratory therapist.

One thing that can be especially rough for nursing graduates is adjusting to the schedule that most often accompany a position in a hospital or long-term residential care facility.

We're talking about powering through night shifts! How do nurses do it? What the trick for well... tricking your body into sleeping during the day to help keep you alert and awake at night?

At Concorde, we care about all facets of you: your physical, mental and emotional health. It's one of the reasons we connect you with quality information before you enter the field and we're here for you after.

Whether it's sleeplessness or fatigue, the American Nurses Association acknowledges that there is work to be done to address these issues.

"Registered nurses and employers in all care settings must collaborate to reduce the risks of nurse fatigue and sleepiness associated with shift work and long work hours. Evidence-based strategies must be implemented to proactively address nurse fatigue and sleepiness and to promote the health, safety, and wellness of registered nurses and ensure optimal patient outcomes."

What to do?

Make sleep a priority: There's a difference between naps and true sleeping. Depending on your schedule, three in a row or days and then some nights, you'll need to find a cadence that makes sense for you and your family. You should still aim for a minimum of seven hours of sleep. The consequences of sleep deprivation for health care professionals is a whole different ball game than your average Joe.

Make healthy food choices:You may tell your patients this but do you put it into practice? Food is fuel! Think about sustained energy rather than foods and drinks that give you short bursts. And just like traditional 9-5, keep your caffeine consumption toward the beginning of your shift and then switch over to water.

Take breaks at work: This may be easier said than done, but trying to push through all your cases and not sitting down will only result in a crash that can't be duplicated night after night.

The National Sleep Foundation, as reported by everynurse.org, suggests engaging in a bit of exercise as a way to fight back when a feeling of fatigue starts to take over during the night shift. Staying active during breaks is an effective way to reboot energy levels, and may include taking a walk to the cafeteria, climbing a set of stairs, dancing to a song on the radio in the break room, or shooting hoops in the hospital parking lot.

Be honest with your employer: It's tough to admit you're not a superhero, especially after coming off a high like graduating from a nursing degree program. Find a mentor in your ward and ask him/her what strategies work well. As a nurse, everyone remembers what it was first like making the transition.

Whether you've recently graduated from a nursing degree program and viewing the night shift as "paying your dues" or find that this works best for you and your family, take special care of yourself as you have a long and fulfilling career ahead of you!

Are you a night shift superhero? We want to know: What's your secret superpower?


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