5 Tips to Survive Your First Nightshift

5 Tips to Survive Your First Nightshift

Jul 10, 2020 Published by Kathrin O'Neill

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If you’re about to take on your first night shift and you’re worried about your own survival, then you’ve come to the right place.

Chances are, almost every resident that went through their solo or buddy night shift felt the same way. Your enemy is your body’s natural call to sleep at night accompanied by an overwhelming and exhausting shift. After all, you’ll never know what could happen at a hospital during nighttime. You might constantly hope for a q-word night, but instead, met with different cases of coding and non-stop going around the hospital.

To help you along the way, here are some tips to help you survive and thrive your first nightshift:

1. Physically and Mentally Prepare Yourself for Your Nightshift

The last thing that you should do before your nightshift is to stick with your current body clock and pull 24-hour activeness. Not only it’s going to cause havoc in your body, but you’re also prone to make avoidable mistakes on your shift because of your lack of sleep and alertness.

So before you get on to your nightshift, condition your mind and body first. Try to do something physical two days before your shift. Whether it’s running or just a huge housework chore, try to physically tire yourself up. This will help you get a decent amount of sleep the next day, so you’ll be fueled up on your nightshift.

You can also stay up really late the night before then sleep for the majority of the day before your shift. That way, you’ve already gotten your recommended sleep hours and helped your body clock adjust.

2. Feel Comfortable on Your Shift

This goes two ways: physically comfortable and medically comfortable. Just before you punch in for your nightshift, make sure that you’re comfortable with your clothes. There’s no use to look extra presentable when your sole concern is to get through the night. So wear your most comfortable pair of scrubs and shoes to alleviate some of the physical stress of nightshift.

When it comes to being medically comfortable, a lot of residents experience nightshift anxiety not because of the fear of pulling an all-nighter but because of the uncertainty that happens during nightshifts. Residents are usually less monitored during the night which means they’re more or less on their own. The lack of medical confidence and comfortability is a huge factor for most medical professionals.

Which is why it’s important to alleviate that kind of thinking. Being prepared is one of the things that you could do to lessen that nightshift anxiety. You could make a list of the most common situations that might occur. Don’t be afraid to ask questions from your coworkers. Chat up with the nurses for their past experiences with their nightshifts and go from there.

3. Keep Yourself Well-Fed and Hydrated

During your shift, keep yourself well-fed and hydrated. Map out your breaks just like you do on your day shifts. While breaks can be a hard luxury to come by as a resident, you can’t function properly and make sound medical decisions without your basic needs.

For most healthcare professionals, nightshift is a haven for quick and easy bites. That means junk food, pizza, and takeaways. While it’ll fill you up for the night, your body will hate you in the long run. You’re likely going to be in a countless nightshift throughout your medical career so if you’re going to build a habit of unhealthy eating in the first place, that will damage your physical well-being in the future.

Instead of grabbing the quickest snack, you could find on the vending machine, it won’t hurt to prepare your own meals ahead of time or go for the healthier option at the take-out order. Your hospital cafeteria might be closed or have a limited selection of food so make sure that you’re well-stocked for the night.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated too. Keep a water bottle with you nearby and as much as possible, keep track of how much water you intake so you can reach more than the recommended amount per day.

4. Monitor Your Caffeine Intake

It’s no secret that probably most of the hospital staff at night runs on coffee. After all, staying alert is the key to surviving a busy night at the hospital and the best way to do it if you don’t have the luxury of sleeping is with coffee or any form of caffeinated drink.

If you don’t like caffeinated drinks, you’ll soon realize that it’s going to be your savior’s grace. However, that doesn’t mean that the only liquids you’ll take during your nightshift are in the form of coffee, soda, or energy drink.

The Mayo Clinic determined that up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day are safe for most healthy adults. That’s about four cups of your average brewed coffee, two energy shot drinks, or 10 cans of soda. If you consumed more, you might experience the negative side effects of being overcaffeinated and that might hamper on your ability to function properly as a medical professional.

5. Do Your Post-Shift Care

Getting out of the hospital in the morning is the most glorious thing you could ever feel after a grueling nightshift. But, that doesn’t mean that you’re free of your nightshift duties to yourself.

The first thing that you shouldn’t do after a nightshift is to drive home. Even if you feel like you’re not that sleepy and you can still stay behind the wheel for a couple of minutes until you get home. Post-nightshift road trauma is an unfortunate thing that some medical health workers experience. Your safety and the safety of other people on the road is your responsibility every time you drive so don’t risk it. Book yourself an Uber or call someone else.

When you get home, do your own thing and then go to sleep. Invest in good blackout curtains or an eye mask so your body won’t react to sunlight and let you have a peaceful sleep.