Nurses have to be flexible and work both day and night shifts when required. Since it’s possible to choose a regular shift in the nursing profession, some people choose either the day or night shift to accommodate other activities in their lives. For example, a nurse attending additional courses during the day might find it easier to work nights.
Working in the night shift has several advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are differential pay, slower pace of work, simpler bureaucracy, more close knit relationships with other nurses, and a chance to learn more and be more self-reliant. Night nurses also have the advantage of not battling with daily traffic! The disadvantages are many as well, such as being invisible to daytime administrators and missing out on promotions. There’s also the disadvantage of continuously fighting off sleep, which condition improves the longer you’re on night shifts.
If you are a nighttime nurse, you will find the following tips useful:
- Always eat a full meal before your meal. During the daytime, the health care facility’s cafeteria might be well stocked but there’s no telling if you’ll find anything worth eating during the night. Carry a few snacks as well, to keep hunger at bay.
- Get at least 8 hours sleep during the day. Granted the pace of work may be slower at night, but that doesn’t mean you can sleep on the job. Your patients need the same diligent care during the night as they do during the day.
- Wear a good quality digital watch all the time. At night, the body tends to relax naturally and the digital watch’s bright display will keep the time in front of you all the time. You’ll never miss a patient’s medication schedule if you keep looking at your watch now and then.
- When you get home after daybreak, don’t go to sleep immediately. Relax for a while, watch TV or do housework. Your body will tell you when you’re ready to sleep and your sleep will be more relaxed.
- Make sure you manage your shifts in such a way that you sync with your family’s day and night schedules. Keep synch points for kids, spouse, parents, or roommates so that you don’t feel out of the loop. This will give you a sense of normalcy and make you feel that you’re all on the same clock.If you work multiple shifts, try to gradually work towards the night shift. Go from day shift to evening shift and then to night shift so that your body adjusts to the work timings.If you work multiple shifts, try to gradually work towards the night shift. Go from day shift to evening shift and then to night shift so that your body adjusts to the work timings.
- It’s tempting to work more night shifts to make the differential pay. However, try and save that money for unexpected changes in case of illness, or disability. To make sure that you are motivated the right way, use your differential income to pay back loans or to make investments.
- Keep your personal business for the time when you’re the most alert. You may want to pay bills, check your child’s homework, and make important calls and so on. It’s best to make use of your shift ending time in the mornings for these tasks. You’ll be alert and awake when your shift ends, just before your body starts decompressing for its ‘nighttime’.
- If you work multiple shifts, try to gradually work towards the night shift. Go from day shift to evening shift and then to night shift so that your body adjusts to the work timings.
- To ensure you sleep soundly during the day, use a sleep mask, earplugs and black out curtains. Create a ‘nighttime’ effect in your house to cheat your body into thinking that it’s indeed night and time to sleep. Regular exercise keeps your body flooded with positive hormones and makes you feel good about life. Regular exercise will also help you go to sleep naturally and deeply.
- Don’t depend on drinks or sleeping pills to put you to sleep. This will not help your body establish normal circadian rhythms and your sleep architecture might be altered. For restful sleep, allow your body to relax, listen to soothing music and read a pleasant book. Stay away from activities that stimulate your mind or cause you anxiety, thus keeping sleep at bay.
- Don’t drink more than a cup or two of coffee in 24 hours. Caffeine may help you get past the occasional feeling of lethargy and stimulate you, but in the long term, caffeine is addictive and disrupts your circadian rhythm. That apart, coffee is diuretic and you don’t want to wake up to pass water during your sleep time!
- If you consistently work nights, you might not be visible to the daytime administrators who influence career advancements. Look around and see what you can do to overcome this obstruction. See if you can help daytime administrators in coordinating night schedules, orientation programs and so on. Volunteer to work as liaison with EMS and projects if that gets you noticed. The idea is to make sure your work and contributions are noticed by the powers that be so that you don’t lose out on career advancements.
If you ever find yourself in need of any legal help related to your nursing license, please contact Illinois Nurse Defense Attorney James B. Goldberg at (312) 735-1185 or visit his website goldberglicensing.com