Updated: Feb 9, 2020
12 hours is long enough to be on your feet, hold your pee for extended periods of time and occasionally go hungry while caring for your downward spiraling patient. Attacking it on nights is a whole other B E A S T.
Below you'll find my current tips for surviving my first few weeks of night shift.
Find your routine. The night before my first shift I stayed up until 2:00 am, instead of my typical 10:00 pm, so I could sleep in later the next morning.The following day I also made it a priority to get a nap in before work. Second, as soon as I got home the next morning I took melatonin. Many of my other co-workers also recommend CBD oil or Z quil. Other than melatonin my absolute must-haves are my eye mask, noise maker and cuddle buddy - Dakoda :) But for reallllllll you need to get yourself an eye mask or black out shades because even the little bit of light can disrupt sleep and personally, feeling like I'm asleep somewhere deep inside of a cave is heaven. PRO TIP: idk how your breaks work but I get two 1-hour breaks. I try to minimize any "sleep" I actually get because it usually makes me feel nauseous and more groggy than I did before my break.
This is a tricky one... For preggers over here I have to minimize my caffeine intake more than an average person. So I save my caffeine (200mg) for my shift hours. I usually take a caffeinated tea with me and sip on it throughout the entire shift. I found it's better to keep a good "buzz" going. Laugh at me if you will but this is a serious matter lol. On days off, I usually don't drink much caffeine therefore making my caffeine intake more effective during shift. I found that sipping on the drink throughout the night helps more than slamming it at beginning of shift (usually 10:00pm - 5:00am).
Your co-workers are going to be apart of how you survive your shifts... mentally and physically. Make friends with them! Don't alienate yourself or burn bridges. On your downtime ask them if they need your help before sitting down or going on break. It seems silly that I mention this but sometimes you may not realize that you aren't being a "team player". When you're drowning or have a heavy patient assignment, they're the ones who will be who you turn towards (and they will be more willing to do so if the favors are returned.... just saying...). Another benefit to having friends on your unit, it keeps you awake. Someone to talk to to pass the time, or even play Sudoku with (shoutout to you Engy).
I know I know, sometimes all you want to do is sit down and kick up your feet on break. Buuuuuuuut sitting down can make you more of a zombie. Grab a friend and walk the hospital, walk outside if the weather allows it or do a few floors of stairs. Idc if you do lunges down the hall to your patient at least it's something. Keeping your heart rate up will wake you up and keep you functioning at a minimum half speed. I also loooooove to do some yoga (standing up poses that is.... touching the ground ew ew ew not ever a possibility, I mean unless contracting the Diff sounds appealing to you). ANDDD if you still just want to sit down, keep busy. Catch up on your latest TV series, binge some NETFLIX or find other busy work (I'm currently writing this blog at 4:50 am).
SO IMPORTANT! It doesn't matter if you're in a relationship, live at home or just vent to your closest gal pal(s). Having someone is better than no one. Someone to vent to about how you watched your patient pass away with their loved ones holding their hand. Someone to bring you Starbucks on your day off forcing you to function in the light of day, maybe even a Target run to brighten your spirits. I am so thankful to my Joshua who puts up with my mood swings, crazy flip flopping schedule, makes me dinner to take to work and runs errands while I sleep from the prior shift (ily babe).
Being honest I thought I would be miserable, exhausted and cry each morning on the commute home - which may have happened after my second shift. Sticking to my routine, with MUCH trial and error, has gone better than expected. Even 4 months pregnant I am surviving (check back with me mid third trimester though).... If you're new to the night shift or debating if you can do it, the answer is yes you can! It isn't going to be the easiest transition but hopefully after reading through this blog you can pick up a few tips and form your own routine. And if you discover some other trick, LET YOUR GIRL KNOW!