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Surviving the Night Shift

Surviving the Night Shift

Megan Malugani | Monster Contributing Writer

Health care isn’t a 9-to-5 job. It’s an around-the-clock profession, and working evening or night hours is a way of life for many health professionals. Such shifts can take a physical and emotional toll on workers, experts say, but there are ways to prevent the damage. Here are suggestions for surviving – and even thriving – despite a draining schedule.

Understand You’re Not Alone

About 26 percent of the U.S workforce regularly works a shift where the majority of their hours are between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m., says Janie O’Connor, MEd, president of Shiftworker.com in St. Paul. “Shiftworkers need to relate to that demographic,” she says. “They need to accept their lifestyle as it is and refrain from acting like a day worker when they’re not.”

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Protect Your Sleep

Shiftworkers must protect their daytime sleep at all costs, O’Connor says. “Do not respond to any other calls on your time, like the telephone, the doorbell or a relative who asks you to do something because she thinks you’re just napping.” Sleep deprivation leads to chronic fatigue, she says. Shiftworkers must constantly remind family and friends that sleep is a priority during the day.

Snooze on the Job

Napping is an effective “fatigue countermeasure” for people who aren’t able to get enough sleep in one uninterrupted stretch, says Ed Coburn, publisher of Working Nights newsletter and a consultant at Circadian Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A nap lasting 15 to 25 minutes will have a significant impact on a worker’s alertness, he says. The challenge: finding a quiet, comfortable, dimly lit place to catch those Z’s during a break.

Next: Take Care of Your Body >>


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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    TheBeatGoesOn

    over 5 years ago

    46 comments

    Please, who wants to educate the communities and others at large in regards to this issue. Some people just don't get it. Even some employers are not on board with this whole night shift health related issue oriented situation. Families many times don't get it either. Would you believe that some churches don't understand either why those working night shift might need a support system and the understanding as to why your life might be different than others on days. Suggestions, please, on educating others so they can be on page with your life.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    TheBeatGoesOn

    over 5 years ago

    46 comments

    Most night shift workers I know, do not live like this is just the way it is for them in the since that they just try to put two lives into one. Some people actually work night shift just so they can have the daylight hours to do other things. They usually are sleep deprived. The natural body rhythm is out of sync, so our whole hormone and body chemistry is naturally out of balance. I would think all the more reason employers would be mindful of this in our health care professions. Night shift workers should be given this in every consideration of the occupation that we perform.

  • 334194_4082566659164_677343731_o_max50

    swimnutt1523

    almost 6 years ago

    748 comments

    so many of us are wondering what is sleep???? and where do I get it ??? how do I find the time?? when we finally do we crash and sleep we have a hard time picking back up and going .
    sleep is a prized possession in this field!!!!

  • 334194_4082566659164_677343731_o_max50

    swimnutt1523

    almost 6 years ago

    748 comments

    I have worked a lot of night shifts but most of them were right after an evening shift by then I am quite tired and by the time I get home I hurt all over... but to me its rewarding to be able to pitch in and help when I can but some times I have to just take care of me, its hard though because I know working short means patients don’t get the care they need and deserve and that really bothers me. I survive by keeping busy and trying not to eat a lot during my shift, staying hydrated and doing room checks when I have down time if I sit I am done for!! I worked double all week a few months ago and got one day off and did 4 more doubles with 1 day off then 1 regular shift and two doubles I thought I was going crazy!!!! BUT I loved every minute of it It was in December 08 when Olympia Washington had the bad snow storm people were calling off left and right. I didn’t mind working but two times I got stuck and had to dig out I was so tired I just cried!!!! I eventually called my boyfriend and he came to my work at 0600 and told me it was ok He dug me out !!!!! Needless to say I want to thank all the nurses out there who bust the butt and pitch in!!! thank you thank you !!!!!1

  • John___kathy_max50

    kmagic

    almost 6 years ago

    2 comments

    Patsy, I can't get the link to open the article so I can read it. Could you copy and paste it in an email? kmagic@newnorth.net.Thanks.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    PatsyH

    almost 6 years ago

    4 comments

    I worked night shift for 25 years until I was mistakingly scheduled for nights on a travel assignment. What a pleasant surprise to find out what I had been missing. The peace and quiet of nights was a refreshing change from the roar of dayshift. I work ICU where we are still busy with patient care but without the constant interuption of phonecalls, visitors, doctors and therepists, and never knowing where your chart is! I also believe the teamwork is better on nights.
    I found the biggest thing for me to overcome was the stress and worry about not sleeping. Once I made my room very dark, eliminataed all noise I had control of and then provided some "white noise like a fan", occasionally resorting to earplugs, and took a benedryl, I was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow. Of course, I turned off my phone. I try to work 3 shifts in a row for continuity. My first day off I will take a nap upon returning home, and get up before noon. That way I feel that I am not wasting a beautiful day. (I really am a day person). Then I go to bed that evening like most other people. I should add, however, that I no longer have children to attend to.

  • Kuhk_max50

    nurse_dee_2006

    almost 6 years ago

    50 comments

    Beer? Never!! I try to cut off the coffee around 4am. I eat 'breakfast' before I leave work. As soon as I get home I use Benedryl 50mg for uninterrupted, satisfying sleep. I work 3-12's / weekends. The rest of the week I live 'normal' hours. In bed at 9:30p - up at 7:30. It's hard. I'm thinking of going PRN just so I won't have to work 3 in a row. I'm gettin too old for this crap! Been doing it for years and I never get used to it!

  • Mickeymouseclubhouse_240_max50

    kstiltner1

    about 6 years ago

    7170 comments

    Very useful.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    TheBeatGoesOn

    about 6 years ago

    46 comments

    I am thankful to see the acknowledgement of the night shift and that we are not alone is true. We need to take some time to refresh and recharge so we don't burnout. Friends and Family are important and we need to take time for them in our lives as well as our profession. Getting a refresh day for yourself helps, too. A get away day can be just what your Dr. could be ordering, for you to take care of yourself, so you can give to others.
    Being a night shift nurse, I have found, God truly does give "a song in the night," A nightingale is a remarkable little bird that continues to sing after the sun goes down. While other birds are quiet, the lifting melodies of this creature can still be heard. The dark does not silence its song! The nightingale sings at night because that's what it's supposed to do. In memory of a nurse-servant, Florence Nightingale.

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