Ever since I’ve started this new life as a new grad nurse, my schedule has been completely messed up. I’d have no idea what day it was if it wasn’t for having to ask my patients every day at work. On orientation, they try to give you the most experience on all shifts as possible, and so I could be working straight days one week, nights over the weekend and sometimes evening shifts throughout.
This week, I worked an eight-hour day and am now switching to 12-hour nights tonight and Thursday. Staying up last night didn’t go so well… I have been having random migraines weekly and it left me exhausted. I woke up around 2am sitting up and the lights still on. Tonight will be interesting to say the least.
Night shifts aren’t bad. They are different, a different atmosphere, a different pace, altogether different from the typical day schedule. That does not mean that they are easy. One of the reasons night shift is difficult is because you are changing your body’s sleep cycle. Completely throwing off your body’s regular wake schedule and pretending like you’re a bat is not normal for the human body. You’re forcing yourself to stay up while everyone sleeps, while the sun is down, and when your body’s natural circadian rhythm follows that of light. It is not an easy task, making it not an easy shift.
Everything out of the norm seems to happen on night shift. When most of the doctors are gone, when you have no secretaries to help keep your floor organized, and when your floor is staffed less due to the fact that MOST of your patients should be sleeping. Patients with dementia or sun-downers tend to become the most active on night shift. They’re bodies don’t have the regular schedule anymore.
I’ve worked plenty of night shifts. In fact, one summer when I was on summer vacation from college, that’s all I did. I stretched my work week between a nursing home and a medical/surgical floor at the hospital in town and worked as a CNA (certified nurse’s assistant). The hospital only scheduled 12s so I based my other schedule around that one. I mistakenly scheduled myself 9 twelve-hour shifts in a row once! Luckily, I had amazing shift supervisors who helped me out and got me a day off in the middle… and I ended up going hiking with my sister with no sleep anyways. (WHICH WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!).
What I’ve found to be so different from being a CNA and a nurse working night shift, is that CNAs are moving more which is very helpful to stay awake. Nurses still do a lot throughout the night and answer a lot of lights, but I’ve found that the charting and contacting providers can take up a lot of time at the computer, sitting. From my one weekend of nights, I found that we were so busy charting and rechecking vitals (irregular BP had us runnin’ all night) that the lack of walking did not help me stay awake. I ended up running stairs to give me boosts of energy throughout the night (and chugging a Monster).
So I have two night shifts coming up, and I’m eager to see how much different a week night shift is compared to the weekend night shift. I will let you guys know if anything exciting or worthwhile happens, but until then I will give you a few tips I have come up with for staying chipper when working nights.
- Pack light, healthy(ish) snacks. If you’re able to munch on your shift, eating can help you stay awake. This is why a lot of nurses (or shift workers) tend to gain weight from working nights, so making sure that healthy and light snacks are your options to try to fend away unwanted pounds!
- Drinking water… which I am terrible at. I see something with caffeine in it and I gulp it down. It’s one of my goals I am working on, to drink more water. But, my theory is the more you drink, the more you have to pee, and the more you’ll stay awake. And it’s way better for you than gulping down energy drinks all night.
- Trying to find the best schedule and time for when to work out. It’s important to try to stay active throughout your shift cycle, so throwing in a work out when you can is so important. Whether you can battle the morning after and get in a work out before catching some sleep, or just getting up earlier and working out prior to your shift, you should try and give your body that time. You deserve a good workout. You deserve to treat your body good. It will make you feel better.
I am not a pro on shift work yet, so if you found some better ways to help your body prepare for night shift or even actually staying awake during the night, I’d love to hear it! I am always looking for ways to stay healthy and being the most prepared I can be for my shifts. As always, thanks so much for dropping by my page. Until next time. ❤