Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Final Six Weeks or The Unlikely RN & Night Shifts

This coming Monday I begin my "leadership" rotation where I work as a give-everything-but-medications nurse on a pediatric medical-surgical unit. When my preceptor (the nurse who will steer me through this experience) gave me my schedule, the first word she said was "Sorry."


And the schedule IS something awful (2 days then 3 nights then 1 day then 2 night...). However, I did say I wanted to experience both day and night shifts and I will indeed have about equal parts day and night. Also, I don't have anything else going on for the next 6 weeks (we only have to attend a weekly discussion group and our online class) so I might as well undertake a gruelling schedule of ill-timed 12-hour shifts. Right? The very good news, however, is that I like my preceptor very much. I'm her first preceptoree which I think is a good thing as she won't be comparing me to other students and we can work out a situation that will work for both of us. Additionally, my preceptor is being trained to be a charge nurse so I get to go with her to her training shifts and I'm looking forward to this taste of management. Also, my two best friends are working nights so we'll be able to see each other.

Does anyone have night shift survival tips? Sleep schedule suggestions? Painless ways to put yourself out of your misery? I'm very green when it comes to shift work and can use all the advice you can give.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think everyone approaches nights differently....I try not to sleep 8 hours between them, much as I am tempted because then I feel very tired and grumpy going into the subsequent nights. I also eat lots - but I'm not sure that's a good tip to pass on!

7:33 AM  
Anonymous Judy said...

What's the difference between a night shift nurse and an elephant?

About 10 lbs -- especially if you follow anonymous' suggestion.

I've been working 2 12 hour night shifts every weekend for the last 18 years. It works for me because I can usually plan ahead.

I try not to plan anything too strenuous on Fridays. I take a nap on Friday afternoons -- about 1-2 hours. I have room-darkening shades on my windows. Some people get a sleep mask to block out the light instead. If I have difficulty sleeping, I have a CD that I pop in that puts me out in under 5 minutes EVERY time. What works for me is CHANT - A Gregorian chant CD. ymmv on that, but music or white noise can help block out outside sounds.

On Saturday mornings, I go to bed shortly after getting home if it's been a rough night, otherwise, I stay up and spend an hour or so with my husband and kids before they head out for the day.

I don't have too much trouble staying awake any more, but I've been doing this a long time and acquired a taste for coffee about 8 years into this. Before that, I didn't use much caffeine at all.

Eating is distracting and can give you an energy boost, depending on what you eat. It can also make you sleepier if you eat the wrong things. Turkey is a BAD idea, for example - think Thanksgiving somnolence. High carb foods aren't always good either. Popcorn can be a relatively low calorie alternative to other snacks if you get the low-fat varieties. I'm partial to carrot chips, myself.

One thing to really watch about communal food on nursing units is other people's hand-washing behaviors. I mostly won't eat after anyone else has had their hands in the food. Not at work, anyway. If the unit you're on has any problem at all with hospital-acquired infections, someone isn't washing their hands. Think about it.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently I became very grumpy at home when I was on night shifts (something hard to imagine). I drank tons of coffee (to which I am now addicted so that's not so good), and tried not to eat if i had already done the 3 meals during the day. Before I had kids I'd go to the gym before my shift (from 4-6 say) and that was really good as it made me less hungry and actually gave me energy and then it didnt matter so much if you ended up eating tons of chocolate at 4am.

Sleep wise I got home around 8, slept until about 1 or 2 (so by night 3 you've had about 15 hours of bad sleep total), veged until 3 and then made meals, did stuff like shopping, went to gym, etc.

Studies show that shift workers die earlier. After a few nights I believed that. Although it seems to have more to do with fatal mistakes made on night shifts than the actual shifts themselves. Have fun!! dianne

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I suppose actual nurses have good advice on how to keep sharp at night, but really you should consult the experts: better bone up on Angel and Buffy...

12:17 PM  
Blogger Ilan Muskat said...

I second the Angel and Buffy suggestions, except I only watch them because they make the funny double-entendres about stakes being sort of suggestively-shaped.

My best suggestion is maybe to keep hydrated. Probably not to get addicted to amphetamines. But that's another way.

I guess hospitals don't let you carry cellphones. If they did I'd suggest that you get one and have Dan call you every 25 minutes.

9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

212 hour night shifts? in the champeenship?

... i'd wike to see ya twwy.

10:08 AM  
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