As a traveling nurse, working the night shift may take some getting used to, especially if this is your first time on the schedule. Adjusting to the new hours, pace, and people can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. To help you get through the long nighttime hours, here are four ways to prepare.
Prepare Your Home
Sleeping during the daytime is a challenge, especially with sunlight streaming in your window. Blackout curtains are a good investment to entirely block out sunlight and other external distractions. Closing those curtains can be the first step in a bedtime ritual to help let your body know that it’s time to rest. This ritual might include reading, meditating, or journaling. Other activities like brushing teeth and showering can help transition your mind from an active state to rest mode as well.
If you have a roommate, prepare them for your new schedule to ensure that you have a quiet home during the day, and the same goes for pets! Try to introduce your pet—be it a dog, cat, or turtle—to a new schedule or have someone you trust to check on them while you are asleep during the day and away at night.
Maintain A Consistent Sleep Schedule
Keep the same schedule even on off-days. This will make your transition much easier than if you sleep during the night on days you are off work, only to sleep during the day again on your scheduled night shifts. If you know that your future assignments will be for night shifts, begin transitioning ahead of time. Incorporate more naps during the day and stay up later so that your adjustment will be a little easier on your upcoming first day. If naps are not for you, try to get at least 7 hours of sleep to ensure you are well-rested. You may want to look into setting your circadian rhythm to form a useful sleeping pattern.
This includes eating nutritious meals that are high in protein and low in sugar and staying hydrated by drinking water frequently. Also, keep healthy snacks ready for shift breaks so you can maintain your energy level for your patients.
Do not become dependent on caffeine and limit your intake to the first two-thirds of your shift. Too much caffeine can lead to insomnia, so try to taper off your caffeine intake by switching from coffee at the beginning of your shift to green or ginseng tea later on. Closing out the shift with a non-caffeinated herbal tea may help you begin the transition from work to rest and could become a part of your bedtime ritual.
It is always a good idea to get to know the people you are working with. Building rapport with your peers makes it easier to work side-by-side and provide superior patient care. A great time to build these relationships is when there is a slower pace of work. Chatting during the quiet moments of your shift and finding what you have in common with the other nurses and healthcare employees will make the time go by more quickly.
You have the potential to make lasting friendships and build a solid support system while working the night shifts. Some veteran night shift nurses can even offer you different tips on how to make your night shift easier, so be sure to ask for advice. The more you can pull together as a team, the better for you and your patients.
Working the night shift can be a challenge at first, but when you are properly prepared to make the transition, the routine will become much easier. Having a different schedule than what you are used to can open up new opportunities for you to grow in your field and make new connections. As a travel nurse, you have the opportunity to see if the night shift is a path you want to take. If you choose to, we hope these tips will help.
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