Working as a nurse has a lot of benefits when caring for people is your passion. You get to use your nurturing side where it is needed the most, as well as easing the pain of bed-bound patients. It often involves working through odd hours, though, and if you’ve recently graduated, you need to prepare for adjustment.
Luckily, experienced nurses have gone through this path before and who knows how to make the most of a night shift. Their advice can help you out in the middle of your first night, when energy is low and everything is quiet; it’s when you need it the most, after all.
Get enough sleep
People sleep during the night, and this is the first thing your body is going to remind you of in the middle of your shift. It’s normal to feel drowsy or slightly confused sometimes, and this tends to go away after a while when you get used to the hours. Until then; have a thirty-minute nap before the beginning of your shift and attempt to squeeze in a few others during the night.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t fall asleep properly, so don’t shy away from it if you feel like napping for thirty minutes seems a bit ambitious – especially when more than half of the time consists of trying to fall asleep. Your head is resting as long as you close your eyes and relax; it will keep your energy levels going, but make sure you don’t sleep for too long.
A short nap is preferred over a long one since you risk having to wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle – read more about the well-known 90-minute rule for napping to take full advantage of it.
Get enough water
When you’re tired and would like nothing more than hitting the sack, you need to stay hydrated to feel awake. Keep a bottle of water with you and hydrate little by little; downing an entire bottle is only going to send you straight to the toilet. Snack of fruit and vegetables that contain a lot of water, too; grapes will help you with your blood sugar and hydrate you at the same time.
Talking about food; it’s important to remember that eating will keep you more focused and awake, but don’t eat a big plate before your shift starts. It’s the same mindset as with hydration, only that it’s going to send you to sleep rather than to the toilet. Keep snacking or eat a light meal to stay awake and concentrated. A large one is likely to upset your digestive system since you’re eating it at an odd hour – at least your body thinks so.
Keep your mind active
How you noticed how you’re able to keep it going through stressful days, burning the candle at both ends, and don’t realize the exhaustion until you finally sit down? The long, dark and quiet hours of a night shift will be a constant reminder of how sleepy you are – particularly when you haven’t had the time to adjust to it at all. Divide your time consciously between hours of activity and napping; talk to the other nurses, do a bit of sudoku or read something fascinating when it’s as quiet as can be.
For the first couple of times, it’s even more important to fill your mind with conversations and problem-solving with more experienced nurses. They can help you to cope better with the changes, find solutions for something you’ve been wondering about, and prepare you for a career as a nurse, in general.
Ask them for advice on how to sleep in the daytime when you get home, what type of shoes are best when you’re on your feet all day, as well as how many cups of coffee they normally have during a night shift. You have a lot of learning left and who better to guide you than your fellow nurses? Have a look at Shoe Finale in your downtime, by the way, and read up on how you can sleep soundly during daytime.
A lot of nurses turn to caffeine in order to stay awake and focused, and this is a good idea at the beginning of your shift. It boosts your brain power a bit and can even help you with keeping your spirit up; the smell of the beans and the positive associations you have to coffee as something you have in busy or social settings can work wonders on a tired mind.