It’s no secret that few individuals work as hard as those in healthcare dealing with demanding shifts. From doctors to nurses, the hours are long, and the workload is demanding.
Not to mention that the job continues no matter what day of the year it is. The sick always need treating, and you need to be there to treat them.
As a nurse, this workload can be especially challenging to weather. Often, people don’t appreciate just what nurses do, or how hard they work.
In truth, though, it isn’t unusual for nurses to work at least three twelve-hour days during one week. Admittedly, this shift pattern does generally mean you get the rest of the week to recuperate. But, the knowledge of those extra days off will do little to help when you’re halfway through twelve-hour shifts.
What’s more, with people’s lives in your hands, strict concentration is essential for the duration. And, that isn’t always easy, given that many of these shifts will be overnight.
But, if you love helping people, it’s likely you’re desperate to find a way through. And, with the American Nurses Association predicting we’ll need 1.1million new nurses by 2022, there’s more motivation than ever to stick at the role. Which is why we’re going to look at a few ways to see yourself through those 12-hour shifts.
If you’re struggling to make things work as it stands, these pointers could provide the career boost you need.
Eat before you leave
This is an obvious point, but one which workers across the country fail to take note of. It’s especially tempting to neglect this point if you start early in the morning.
When you start at 6 AM with a 12-hour shift ahead, getting up half an hour early might just not seem like an option. But, it’s a step you need to take. While that extra time in bed is important, it’s not half as crucial as eating a decent meal before you head off.
When it comes to energy levels, food will actually serve you better than a little extra sleep. To ensure you get into this habit, you could always prepare something the night before.
Overnight oats are easy to make, and provide the slow-release energy you’re going to need to get through. If eating early really doesn’t appeal, why not make up a smoothie and drink it on your way? That way, you can be sure you’re getting the nutrients and energy you need to see you through.
One thing’s sure; if you start tired, things can only go downhill. Not to mention that sugar-lows and hunger could lead to life-threatening lapses in concentration. Make sure it doesn’t happen by eating before you go.
Bear in mind, too, that it’s worth taking food with you so that you can eat as you go.
During overnight shifts especially, your breaks may be sporadic or non-existent. As such, keeping a salad or sandwich with you at the desk ensures you get the chance to at least eat something.
Where physical work is involved, sustenance is essential for performance. So, don’t neglect this step. Again, preparation beforehand is the best bet you have for making this work.
Take time over your uniform
It’s also worth taking a little time over your uniform. After all, comfort is essential if you’ll be wearing these clothes for twelve hours straight. If your shoes hurt your feet, you’ll soon know about it.
In extreme cases, you may even find yourself unable to walk and fulfill your role by around the nine hour mark. And, you’ll still need to face three more hours of caring for your ward patients.
So, shoes should really be your priority here. Even if the hospital provides footwear, it’s worth buying your own if you don’t find those options comfortable.
Of course, you will need to get permission first. With health and safety at risk, it’s likely you’ll have some restrictions on your options. But, if you talk things through with your boss, you’ll be able to find a suitable alternative together.
If they take a hard line on the matter, you could always try insoles or other options for added comfort. It’s also worth wearing those shoes when you aren’t at work. Often, hard materials soften with regular use. So, the more you wear them, the more comfortable they’ll become.
Of course, comfort doesn’t only apply to shoes. You also need to think about the uniform you wear. Scrubs are essential nursing gear. They help you stand out to patients and coworkers, as well as being a hygienic and safe option.
But, if the material on your provided scrubs is uncomfortable, you’re going to struggle over the course of twelve hours. Again with the backing of your boss, it might be worth opting to buy your own comfortable scrubs.
As long as you select a color and cut which adheres to uniform standards, it’s unlikely you’ll come across problems. And, that comfortable option could make all the difference during your longest days.
During your shift, it’s essential that you stay hydrated. When the workload gets busy, it’s all too easy to forget about drinking. But, you should always keep a bottle of water to hand, and sip it whenever you get a second.
Hydration is essential for health, happiness, and even concentration. And, given that you’re working physical jobs in a hot environment, it’s an issue you NEED to keep on top of.
Even if you don’t have direct access to your bottle, make use of water fountains around the hospital. One thing’s sure; you won’t be able to provide the best care if you aren’t looking after yourself.
On a more serious note, Natural Health News states:
‘If you just can’t think straight, a glass of water may help get your brain working again.’
So, even if you don’t think you need to drink, do it. Once you’re into the habit, you should reach for water automatically, even when you aren’t thirsty.
Organize your workload and make notes
Obviously, any nurse is going to come across issues they can’t plan for in a shift. You should always have room in your schedule for emergencies.
But, it still pays to plan your time as best you can. When you arrive each day, write a quick list of the jobs you know you need to do. These should include things like medication runs, paperwork, and general checks.
By writing out this list, you can ensure there’s some structure to your shift. And, that’ll help you get everything done, as well as ensuring the time flies by.
Ideally, you want to be on the go all the time. As soon as you stop, you’ll feel those hours that bit harder. As such, on quiet nights, make sure you know about anything which needs doing behind the desk.
That should be enough to keep you busy. It’s also worth taking notes as you go. With a shift this long, it’s all too easy to forget what you’ve done and who you’ve dealt with.
From a medical point of view, you’ll write everything on patient charts anyway. But, it’s worth jotting things down for yourself and the person on shift after you. This will help you keep track of what you’re doing throughout. If your attention threatens to wonder, turn to these lists and get yourself back on track.
Make proper use of your days off
There’s a good reason that 12-hour shifts lead to three day weeks. It’s the only real way many nurses retain some semblance of a work-life balance.
But, those extra days off aren’t going to do you much good if you don’t make the most of them. For one, you should attempt to at least use some of the daylight hours. This can be tricky if you’re working night shifts.
But, forcing yourself to wake up mid-afternoon may leave you feeling better than you would otherwise. If you sleep from morning until night, it might not feel like you’ve had much of a day off at all.
Instead, be sure to set your alarm and make some plans. Meet up with a friend, or have them come to you if you don’t have the energy to go out. Have a bath and turn it into a pampering session.
In short; make time for you. This is your chance to look after yourself, and it’s essential you use it. Otherwise, your work will soon start to suffer.
Self-care is critical, especially when you spend your life looking after others. And, this is the only chance you’ll get to practice it. Don’t worry about chores for at least one of those days off.
Instead, set that time aside for taking it easy. Go out to eat instead of worrying about cooking. It might even be worth heading out of town and spending some time in the countryside. If it helps you feel refreshed and ready to face the next shift, it’s a step worth taking.
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