Nursing skills: 4 helpful tips for a successful night shift

Working the night shift can be a little imposing, but mastering this responsibility is an important nursing skill. Once you become more familiar with the in's and out's of working overnight, however, you may find that the experience is rewarding in many ways.

There are, of course, many unique challenges for nurses working the night shift. These require being a little proactive and flexible. By following these four tips, you can ensure that your next night shift is a successful one:

1. Eat the right food
By providing your body with adequate fuel, you can stay alert throughout the night. This means planning ahead and packing yourself healthy meals or snacks. Fruits and vegetables will keep your body energized and healthy, while junk food is loaded with empty calories that will only leave you feeling tired and sluggish. Food with lots of processed sugars can be especially detrimental.

While healthy eating is important, when it comes to the night shift it becomes essential. Otherwise, you could face feeling moody or burnt out, which will compromise your ability to deliver high-quality care. 

2. Don't overdo it with the caffeine
Many folks working long into the night will likely grab a drink that has caffeine, but as Nurses Labs reported, when and how much coffee or tea you consume can make a big difference. Because it takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour for the effects of caffeine to kick in, make sure you don't drink a cup of Joe or a soda too close to the end of your shift, as it could interfere with your ability to sleep later.

Having too much caffeine can actually be rather detrimental to your night-shift efforts. Coffee and other beverages will lead to dehydration, which in turn can induce irritability, hunger and sleepiness. Instead of drinking three or four mugs of coffee or tea, consider a healthy fruit drink or even a cold glass of water to keep going.

Keeping your body happy and healthy is an important nursing skill.Keeping your body happy and healthy is an important nursing skill.

3. Understand how patients' needs may change
Working a successful night shift goes beyond taking care of yourself. Nurses will need to recognize that for patients, long nights can be just as difficult. This means offering different kinds of support and looking out for changing needs or behaviors. 

Nurse.org stated that for younger patients or individuals in hospice care, night time can be a scary or lonely affair. Offering companionship and a friendly face can make a world of difference to these patients, and is an opportunity for a more intimate experience for nurses and their patients.

4. Coordinate with friends and family
Part of surviving the night shift is maintaining a positive attitude. Even if you stay healthy and enjoy the extra time with patients, it is possible to become resentful of working such odd hours. Discuss with your friends, family or significant other about planning get-togethers and events around an upcoming night shift. This way you can feel confident that your work responsibilities will not interfere with your social life and downtime. Integrate any night shifts into your schedule as best you can to avoid feeling overly tired or left out. 

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