The medical field is a stressful place. For many of us, when we get off of a busy shift and head home, the last thing we want to do is more work than needed. We either head straight into relaxation mode, or we dive into necessary household chores.
What you do right after a shift and before all that can have a big impact on your mental and physical health. While it’s tempting to get off shift and dive straight into the next task, taking a few extra minutes for some extra after-shift best practices can do wonders to help you decompress and actually enjoy your time away from work.
Here are some best nursing practices you can consider incorporating into your schedule after your shifts.
Nursing Practice #1. Take Off Your Work Clothes and Shoes
When you work in the medical field, it’s highly likely that you come into physical contact with a lot of nasty things. Our work clothing and shoes can carry all manner of bodily fluids, bacteria, and viruses that we’ve come across through our patients, other medical staff, or just the facility itself. Especially now with COVID-19, the thought of taking home something extra on your clothes or shoes can be scary.
With that in mind, an important nursing practice is to figure out a routine for yourself that minimizes contact from your clothes and shoes with the inside of your house. For example, that could mean taking off your work shoes and storing them at the front door or in the garage and switching into non-work shoes that you keep there for after work. For your work clothes, you could more or less do the same or just head straight to your room without touching anyone or anything to clean up.
Nursing Practice #2. Take a Shower
In the same vein of removing your work clothes and shoes, taking a shower immediately after your nursing shift can serve a couple of purposes. One, it helps to wash away anything that might have caught a lift home. And two, it’s a great way to relax, ease sore muscles, and more distinctly separate your work life from your home life.
Nursing Practice #3. Eat Something Healthy
It’s not uncommon for us to be so busy during our shifts that we don’t get a proper break. And even if we do get a second, it’s also not unheard of to just scarf down whatever was easiest to bring and eat that day. Then we get home, and one of the last things we want to do is spend more time and energy making a meal more intensive than popping something in the microwave.
Take some extra time when you shop or meal prep to make sure that healthy snacks or prepped meals are waiting for you after your shift. Healthy snacks high in protein, like nuts and jerky, or easy and ready to eat in a moment, like fruit will help you to feel better than a handful of high-fat chips or sugary sweets. Pre-prepped meals are more likely to be balanced with the nutrients you need every day, and they can be easy to warm up or eat straight out of the container.
Eating healthy after every shift will help you set goals to eat healthy during the rest of your meals. It’ll go a long way to giving you energy throughout the day and minimizing the stress you might have from a long day at work with patients.
Also involved in this is making sure you drink plenty of water. Proper hydration is another thing that tends to get pretty neglected on busy shifts, and it goes a long way to giving you energy and helping your body and mind to deal with stress.
Nursing Practice #4. Move
Move. Exercise. Do something physical. Either take a walk around the block, do some yoga in your bedroom, or just run through some simple stretches. We carry a lot of our stress in different parts of our bodies, like our shoulders, arms, and backs. Due to the nature of our job, we’re also at a higher risk for back injuries.
Taking a few extra minutes to stretch helps prevent those injuries, and it’s a great boost to your energy levels and your health, leaving you better able to enjoy your time off and handle stress when you’re on the job next.
Nursing Practice #5. Take A Moment for Self-Care
Once you’ve taken care of cleaning up and fueling your body, take a moment to do something that’s self-care for you whether mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Give yourself time to relax. That could be as simple as listening to relaxing music, reading a chapter in a book, or just sitting quietly somewhere and doing breathing exercises.
Avoid doing anything you would normally do at work, like scrolling through social media. Let your mind disengage and take a few minutes to relax. It goes a long way.