The Night Shift Nursing Survival Guide

The Night Shift Nursing Survival Guide

Lauren Diffendarfer

by Lauren Diffendarfer

Medical Educator

posted on Nov 20, 2015, at 9:41 pm


three night shift nurses sleeping at break table

Because without these tips, you just might not survive.

Regardless if you’re a first-timer on the night shift, or you’ve been managing to make it through every night shift for years. These tips will help you seriously own the the night shift with ease.

1. Schedule your sleep and meal times at least 24 hours before the night shift

so you’re probably rolling your eyes at this point because you’re sick
of hearing how important sleep is before your shift. The reality of
actually sleeping during the day time before your shift isn’t very
practical, as our bodies don’t particularly understand how to sleep
eight hours during the daylight hours.

Because of this, you have
to really schedule out your sleep even the night before your night
shift. Try staying up until at least 3 am the night before (hello movie
marathon!) and sleeping the majority of the day before your shift, or
you can choose to sleep until the late morning and take a nap before
your shift if option one isn’t for you.

2. Be active the day before your shift

this might seem counterintuitive, staying active and exercising the day
before your shift is important for proper, feel-good mentally sane
hormone release to get you through the night.

3. Bring healthy snacks and a reusable water bottle

eye-rolling and obvious tip, but an essential on our guide. The daytime
nurses will have probably eaten many of the healthy and good snacks, so
opt to BYOS (bring your own snacks) and bring a reusable water bottle
to fill.

4. Resist the caffeine fix late in the shift

drink more than a cup or two of coffee in 24 hours, in the long run,
caffeine is addictive and will disrupt your circadian rhythm more so
than your temporary nightshift state. Also, try and avoid drinking
caffeinated beverages during the second half of your shift, as that will
surely keep you up long after your night shift is over.

5. Wear a digital watch

night shift is the time when you are most likely to lose track of time,
so wear a good digital watch and consider setting alarms. You’ll never
miss a medication again!

6. Create your own “nighttime” for when you actually need it

At home, use earplugs, an eye mask and have curtains that make your room feel more like nighttime.

7. Ease into different shifts steadily

you work shifts during all times of the days and nights, be most
efficient and good to your body by slowly easing into shifts of the
opposing times. For instance, if you work a day shift, work an evening
shift next before taking on the night shift.

8. Bond with your co-workers

though it’s dark outside and the world around you is probably sleeping,
you can still make friendships within the hospital! Your co-workers are
working the night shift too, why not bond with them and make your work
more enjoyable?

9. Stay busy

the day shift, nurses are constantly busy with doctors, supervisors,
kitchen staff and patients which can make the day shift feel quicker. To
feel just as busy, try and get extra work done that could help out the
busy day shift nurses, get organized, or spend more time with your
patients who are actually awake.

10. Get a ride home if you need to

this is the only tip that will actually determine your survival so
listen carefully! Get a taxi or Uber home from work if you find yourself
too tired to drive. You don’t want to end up back at the hospital being
cared for.

As a nurse who works night shifts, we respect and
applaud you! It’s so important that you look after yourself and learn to
manage your health before, during and after your night shift.

About Lauren

Lauren works as the Medical Educator for the Disque Foundation and has worked closely with us since 2014. She is a full-time student pursuing a BS in Biology at Indiana University as a recipient of the Chick Evans Caddy Scholarship and hopes to attend medical school to become a physician in the future. She is certified in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and she is also a certified Basic Life Support Instructor for the American Heart Association. She stays heavily involved with health care in and out of her local community, helping plan and coordinate Disque Foundation events, teaching lifesaving skills to the communities and organizations that we serve and volunteering at her hometown hospital in the Birthing Unit.

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