When it comes to stressful occupations, nursing makes it to the list. Although the job mainly involves looking after patients and ensuring the quality of care is not compromised, the workload and the stressful routine take a toll.
Among the factors that contribute to stress in nurses is the lack of fixed working hours, which means you would also end up working at night.
While some nurses put in a 12-hour work shift, others work night shifts. This type of schedule can be expected when working as a nurse because it is a requirement.
Since nurses are the primary care providers and the lack of staff makes it crucial for nurses to work at night to tackle emergencies.
While nurses strive to reduce patients’ suffering and improve their well-being, the hectic routine, as a result, starts affecting nurses mentally and physically. It’s true, especially for those working the night shift.
Working the night shift impacts the circadian rhythms, leading to health problems. The unconventional hours disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, bringing significant changes like fatigue, mood alterations, poor diet, and cardiovascular diseases.
Nurses of every position work the night shift, whether assistants or practitioners. Working at a late hour means looking after patients that stay overnight, either in a nursing facility or a hospital.
The responsibilities of night shift nurses are somewhat similar to that of the nurses working the day shift.
Let’s look at ways to help nurses avoid health risks associated with late-shift schedules.
1. Setting up a routine
Although it can be difficult to set up a routine for work and sleep, adequate sleep is essential for job performance and well-being. Setting up a routine will not get the job done; it is necessary to stay consistent.
Our body’s natural system is wired to work and sleep at night during the day. However, being a night shift nurse can mess up the cycle, so you should sleep during the day to overcome any health issues and adjust to the odd working hours.
Besides, you should also set a clear sleep schedule after your shift and stick to it. Once you have developed your sleep routine, it will significantly prevent health risks.
It is important to give yourself the time to adjust to the new sleep schedule, especially when you have spent most of your life awake during the day and sleeping at night.
2. Caffeine Intake
While caffeine is the key factor in keeping you active during your shift, it is also necessary to watch caffeine intake.
Healthcare practitioners rely on caffeine to get them through the tough routine, but your caffeine intake should be such that it supports your work and sleep schedule rather than causing adverse effects.
It is common for night shift nurses to consume a good amount of caffeine to keep them on their feet. However, long-term doses of caffeine are likely to stimulate fatigue. One way to prevent a lack of sleep is by avoiding early morning caffeine intake as your shift ends.
When your body is naturally tired, it needs to rest, and avoiding caffeine is the healthy way to ensure your body gets the rest it needs.
As a nightshift nurse, you should drink a cup of coffee at the start of your shift only, and during the shift, consume healthy beverages or drink plenty of water to keep you active.
3. Interact with colleagues
There isn’t much activity going around during the night shift except for checking up on patients from time to time.
The silence of the night and very few people on-call can isolate the workplace environment, leading to feeling depressed and sleepy during the shift.
Changes in your mood reflect your body language and how you work, thus impacting your performance.
Establishing friendly relationships with co-workers can significantly improve your mood and also helps avoid causing any mishaps during shifts.
Like any other workplace, interacting with colleagues or developing friendships boosts your overall morale and is more likely to keep you away from quitting your job.
Additionally, this is also helpful when you feel drained or depressed, and you can turn to your colleagues to unload the emotional burdens.
4. Take Rest
Although the likelihood of getting rest as a nurse during your job is low, you should never miss out on the chance to fully use the mandated breaks.
Nursing can be demanding, from looking after patients around the clock while juggling additional tasks.
To give your best, it is essential to take adequate rest, which involves eating healthy or taking a nap during the break. Hospitals do have a proper place that allows night shift nurses to rest.
Being well-rested boosts your energy and overall health, which is vital for working efficiently.
5. Monitor Health
It is common knowledge that when your body’s circadian rhythm is disrupted, it impacts your sleeping schedule and adversely puts you at risk of health problems like high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol levels.
These issues also reflect poorly on your performance. It is no surprise that while teaching patients to stay healthy, nurses compromise their health.
It is essential to monitor your health; although eating is the one aspect of staying healthy, keeping track of your mental health is as important as physical health.
Besides adopting a healthy diet, indulge in activities that relax your mind and body. These could include taking up a yoga class to help relieve tight muscles resulting from handling arduous tasks 24/7.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle as a nurse will benefit you more than one way. It will provide you with the energy to deal with day-to-day tasks without draining you. Moreover, lifestyle changes will keep you away from health-related problems.
6. Stay Active
One of the drawbacks of working as a night shift nurse is that you won’t have a lot of work to deal with, which is a relief, yet it can make you lazy.
While most patients are asleep or most of the staff has gone home for the day, you are likely to get bored.
To overcome laziness which is likely to make you de-motivated, you must stay active. This means walking down the halls, conversing with the on-duty staff, catching up on much-needed rest, or finishing the paperwork.
While every healthcare practitioner has to deal with many responsibilities, it gets hectic for nurses and especially those who work the night shift.
The primary reason is that most staff take the rest of the day off once the shift ends, which is not an option for nurses working the night shift.
Gradually, the night shift takes a toll on health if a proper schedule is not set up. Nurses must adopt habits that will help them cope with strenuous night shifts and improve their well-being.