As a nurse, working a week of swing shifts can be tough on your mind and body.
If your hospital has you scheduled for an extended period of clinical swing shifts, you’re not alone. Most RNs, at some point in their career, will have to work these grueling hours, so it’s essential to focus on taking care of yourself.
Here are three suggestions to help you remain healthier (and happier) when preparing for – and working – an extended run of swing shifts:
Practice Staying Up and Sleeping In
Leading up to your clinical shift, push back your regular sleep schedule a few days beforehand. Get as much rest the day before your shift as possible. If you can stay up and sleep in even an hour later in the morning, it can help. If you can manage to carve out even a half an hour nap, do so. The more you’ve rested, the more energy you’ll have during your shift, also if your body wants to sleep.
Fuel your body with Healthy Foods
It may be tempting to binge on sugary foods to feel energized, but these will cause your blood sugar to crash and your stomach to rumble shortly afterward. Fill your lunch box with high protein foods that will help you stay full longer, including fruits and veggies that will enable your body to feel refreshed instead of sluggish. Try packing items like apples with peanut butter, salad with fruit and nut toppings, or a brown rice veggie bowl.
Along with snacks, consider packing a nutritious meal, since the cafeteria may not be open. Eating a high-energy meal along with snacks throughout your shift will keep your body’s metabolism going and your energy up.
Keep your mind alert – Without Relying on Coffee
Many nurses suggest wearing a bright digital watch during hospital swing shifts to stay focused, even when the tendency is to feel groggy. Some people sing songs to themselves, while others engage in conversation every fifteen minutes. You can also take 30-second breaks and use breathing exercises to remain alert. When you feel sleepiness creep in, engage your mind in some way to stay awake.
Drinking coffee can be tempting, but as soon as its effects wear off, you crash. That’s risky when you’re caring for patients and supporting staff during your overnight clinical shift. Instead, try dark chocolate or a little green tea to supplement more natural efforts at staying awake.
Remember, when it comes to extended swings shifts, it’s normal for a nurse to feel tired. The secret to success is to manage your body appropriately so you can focus on your clinical duties instead of off the inevitable pangs of drowsiness.
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