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.”
Are You At Risk for Burnout?
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.