Working a double shift in the nursing field can sometimes feel like an impossible task. It’s often emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting to give the best quality care to all your patients at every moment of a normal shift, but it’s even more difficult when you’ve been working so long that you’re already starting off that second shift exhausted.
Part of being a nurse means we’re always constantly on duty and ready at a moment’s notice, meaning our bodies and minds are always alert. No matter how tired we are, we can’t afford to slip up or burn out during a shift. We’re caring for people’s health and their lives, and we have to be as alert and ready at hour 16 as we were when we first walked onto the floor.
If you regularly work doubles and find yourself getting worn down towards the end of them, we’ve put together eight tips for you to use to keep your energy up and preserve your mental and physical well-being.
1. Form a Routine
Having a routine, not just during your double shifts but on all your shifts, can save you time, keep you organized, and boost the efficiency of your procedures.
When you have a schedule in place to follow during your shift, you spend less time and energy thinking about all the tasks and responsibilities you have to get done and what order you have to do them in. Your body adjusts to the routine, and that makes it so you don’t have to be at the highest levels of alertness all the time. As a result, you don’t burn as much mental and physical energy when you’re doing procedural tasks.
Create your routine by prioritizing what tasks you normally have to complete first. These are normally the most important tasks. Even though priorities change every shift, it’s a good way to frame your shifts and spread out your responsibilities as needed.
Other ways to make your routine more structured include taking your breaks around the same time every shift and constantly reviewing and restocking your inventory supplies every time you enter or leave a room or area so you have them at a moment’s notice.
Of course, the medical field is far from routine. Due to the unpredictability of the work, your schedule will constantly be disrupted, and you’ll often have to form and adapt to a new plan with a moment’s notice. When this happens, keep calm and focused and return to your routine when you can.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
It’s tempting to eat fast or unhealthy food for convenience and comfort when you get off your shift. By the time you get home, the last thing you’ll probably want to do is spend more time on your feet while you make food. But choosing to eat unhealthy fast food every day will make your body feel sluggish and run poorly in the long term.
Be aware of how many calories you need in a day based on your routine, how much exercise you normally get, and what portion sizes you should be consuming. From there, create a balanced diet, including fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy grains.
That’s often easier said than done, but try to incorporate healthy foods that you know you like and find new ways to prepare them, so you’re more likely to eat them. Since you’ll be on your feet and burning a lot of energy, eat enough healthy fats to keep your body going strong.
You might be exhausted when you get home or rushing out the door when you’re on your way to work, so make it easy on yourself, and you’ll be much more likely to choose to eat healthy. Buy healthy snacks, like fruit or nuts. When you have time on your days off, take an hour or so to meal prep, so you have ready-to-go meals already in your freezer and fridge that you can grab on your way to work.
3. Make the Most of Your Breaks
When you’re on a break, your first instinct might be to eat as fast as possible, lay down, or zone out by scrolling through social media on your phone.
But breaks can be a great time to take care of your mental well-being and recharge. Some nurses feel refreshed after a power nap, or you can do some mindful meditation to regain energy and refocus.
It also sometimes helps to leave the building or even just the floor and sit somewhere quiet where you can’t be interrupted and you’re less likely to think about work.
4. Stay Hydrated During Your Double Shift
When you’re working all day, it can be easy to forget to stay hydrated. Simply remembering to drink water all day can prevent dehydration and that feeling of lethargy that many of us get halfway through a shift.
By making sure you drink enough water, you’ll have more energy and feel more full, so you won’t be tempted to turn to unhealthy snacks and boost your mood. If you’re having trouble remembering to drink water, add it to your routine.
Keep a water bottle handy in a place wherever your facility allows you to keep drinks. If you aren’t able to keep a drink out in the open, make it a habit to take a drink every time you pass a water fountain, or make it a point to stop at the break room or back office where your water is every time you get up or pass the room.
5. Lean on Your Team
Nursing isn’t a solo job. To be successful, you have to rely on your team of co-workers. In health care, success is more likely when all the health care professionals involved in a patient’s care communicate with one another and work together.
Collaboration and teamwork are essential to quality patient care and successful positive outcomes. Make common team goals that everyone works towards, like improving patient care, shortening response times, and decreasing waste. Have open communication with everyone and assign roles within your team, so everyone knows what their duties are.
Above all, respect one another, and you’ll have a more positive work environment.
6. Keep Busy
As the old expression goes, “a watched pot never boils.” If you’re waiting around for something to do, your double shift is going to seem much longer than it actually is. Keeping busy and task-focused makes time go by quicker and keeps your eyes on the job you’re doing rather than on the clock.
You’ve probably noticed that when you give your body time to rest when it isn’t supposed to, it’s much more difficult to get it active again. But if you keep active, it’s much easier to stay active. Of course, take breaks if you need them. It can be painful and unhealthy if you’re always on your feet for 12- to 16- hours shifts regularly with no breaks to sit down.
7. Comfy Shoes Are Essential for Your Double Shift
You’d be shocked at how much of a difference a good pair of shoes makes. The entire weight of your body rests on your legs and feet. When your feet feel burdened and unsupported, it takes a physical toll on your entire body.
Wear comfortable, supportive shoes that take the pressure off your foot joints and knees. If casual shoes or athletic sneakers aren’t cutting it, try wearing a sturdy pair of hiking shoes.
Most important, when your shoes start to get worn down and your feet get sore again, buy a new pair. It might seem like a waste of money, because the shoe itself is relatively intact and useable, but it’s very easy to wear through a supportive sole in just a few months if you’re always on your feet.
8. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
While coffee and energy drinks can give a momentary boost of energy, most will eventually cause you to crash — especially energy drinks that are high in sugar, which affects your mood and overall health, usually for the worst. Additionally, the sugar and caffeine can make it more difficult to sleep when you’re finally home.
Coffee is fine to start your day, but it’s also a diuretic which can contribute to dehydration. Stick to natural ways to stay energized, like drinking plenty of water, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.
You should make sure that you give yourself time to rest and recover after a long shift or double shift. That means resting both physically and mentally.
However, if you’re on the search for shifts to pick up at facilities near you, sign up for Clipboard Health today and check out the list of available shifts that fit your schedule.