Working a double shift as a nurse can sometimes feel impossible. The stress of giving the best quality care to all your patients is often emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausting. Sometimes, you may be exhausted from working days, weekends, and being on call. And all that means that getting through a 12- to 16-hour workday can be difficult.
As nurses, we’re constantly on duty and ready at a moment’s notice, meaning our bodies and minds are always alert. But no matter how tired we are, we can’t afford to slip up or burn out during shifts. We’re caring for people’s lives, and we have to be as alert and ready at hour 16 as we were in hour one. If you’re finding yourself getting worn down towards the end of your doubles, we’ve outlined eight tips for you to keep your energy up and help preserve your mind and body’s 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 within your shift, you spend less time and energy thinking about what has to get done and what comes next. Your body adjusts to the routine, making it so you don’t have to be at the highest levels of alertness all the time, so you won’t burn as much energy when you’re doing more procedural tasks.
Create your routine by prioritizing what has to get done first, because it’s the most important task. Even though priorities change every shift, it’s a good way to frame your shifts and spread out your tasks. Other ways to make your routine more structured are to take your breaks around the same time every shift and constantly review and restock your inventory supplies so you have them at a moment’s notice.
Of course, the medical field is far from routine. You’ll find that your schedule will constantly be disrupted, and you’ll have to adapt in the moment. When this happens, keep a level head, and return to your routine whenever 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. But doing so 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 and what portion sizes you should be consuming. From there, create a balanced diet, including fruits, vegetables, proteins, and healthy grains. Since you will 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. 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.
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 mind and well-being and recharge. Take a power nap, or you can do some mindful meditation to regain your energy and refocus. It sometimes helps to leave the building or even just the floor and sit somewhere quiet.
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 many of us get halfway through the shift. By making sure you drink enough water, you’ll have more energy, 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.
5. Lean on Your Team
Nursing isn’t a solo job. To be successful, you have to rely on your team of co-workers. Collaboration and teamwork are essential to patient care and having a successful nursing team. 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 is going to seem much longer than it actually is. Keeping busy and being 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.
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.
8. Limit Your Caffeine Intake During Your Double Shift
While coffee and energy drinks can give you 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. 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.