As the new kid on the block the Travel Nurse often must take the dreaded night shift. Most healthcare professionals have to deal with working the night shift at some point and in some instances the pay is much more if you are willing to tackle this task. It can be a difficult transition for some but there are a few things you can do to help you survive and stay well doing it.
Staying hydrated is one of the most important factors for helping you make it until the sun comes up. Your brain is 70% water and therefore keeping your body hydrated will result in being more alert and having better cognitive function throughout the shift. The night shift is busy, as are most shifts, and it is important to make sure you keep drinking water. Buy yourself a water bottle that is convenient and easy to use. Making sure your body and brain stay hydrated will help make sure that your patients receive the excellent care they deserve.
Be careful with the use of stimulants such as caffeine and sugar. Sugar can give you an initial spike but will also cause a sudden crash soon after, which could be detrimental to your performance. We all know caffeine is a great tool and can keep you alert, but if you have too much caffeine you may not be able to get proper rest when you are not at work. Don't drink too much caffeine near the end of your shift. Pay attention to your body and take note when you may need a little caffeine boost. Don't overdo it if you want to be able to provide the best care possible for your patients.
In order to transition to a night shift schedule prepare your body before hand. Stay up very late the night before you start a night shift and try to sleep most of the day if you can. Blackout curtains, a sleep mask and a white noise app or device will be helpful for adjusting your sleep patterns as well. Avoid looking at your phone or laptop before trying to sleep and read a book instead. The light from the screens is detrimental to your ability to fall asleep. And, of course if you continue to work the night shift your body will adapt and sleeping in the daylight hours should become easier.
Remember to indulge in activities that will relieve stress. Exercise is a great way to do this and there are many 24 hour gyms available that will be open when you need to work out. Stress relief is important to those burning the midnight oil. Reading a good book is a great stress reliever.
Saving money is also one of the bonuses of the night shift. Matinee movies are cheaper and most menus are less expensive at local restaurants. And you have your days free to get things done as long as you plan your schedule accordingly.
There are pros and cons to the night shift. Hopefully some of these tips will help you survive and be well while working at night.
Mary Crawford, HealthCare Employment Network