Ah, the dreaded night shift. Every nurse will have to encounter it at some point in his or her career. Some enjoy the more patient-based shift with its lack of administrators and clerical work, while others never can get into the rhythm of being a night owl.
If you’re a nurse on the night shift, chances are you have plenty of non-medical professional friends who won’t keep the same schedule as you. So how do you keep a normal social life while you work the night shift? Check out these five helpful tips:
1. Plan ahead with your non-work friends. If your shift is starting at 7:00 PM, for example, you could realistically have time to meet them for dinner an hour or so ahead of time. The night shift might remove some of the spontaneity of your social life, but it doesn’t have to remove time for fun and socializing.
2. Limit your caffeine intake. It can be tempting to consume cup after cup of coffee to get through those long shifts, but it’ll throw your sleep rhythm off even more and cause you to have to miss out on social functions with friends and family during days off.
3. Treat the switch to normal sleeping hours like jet lag. Take short naps at first to store up some energy and then power through the day until it’s time for bed. This will quicken your transition back to a normal sleep schedule. Try making time for non-work friends the day after you’ve adjusted back to normal sleeping hours.
4. Group your night shift days together. This will assure that you can have longer stretches of days off or daytime shifts. That leaves plenty of time for recreation, fun with friends, errands and time with family, but it’s also better for your overall health!
5. Get to know your coworkers! You’re spending so much time with them at odd hours, so you might as well establish trust, rapport and friendship. Try and bond with them socially and professionally. For example, if you like exercising, invite them to go on an early morning hike or to a workout class with you after the shift ends; if you are a coffee nut, see if they want to grab a cup at a nearby café. You can also bond professionally by trying to coordinate procedural training, or going to conferences and professional development events together.
The night shift doesn’t need to kill your mood, routine or health. Treat it seriously, plan accordingly with your shifts and keep a positive outlook so you can make new friends and keep up with those outside of your professional circle!
Heather Osborne serves as the Education Coordinator at National Procedures Institute (NPI) based in Austin, Texas. She helps coordinate continuing medical education courses and conferences across the nation for medical professionals including nurses, doctors, physician assistants and office staff. Her passion for the medical field, technology and writing, and desire to help others, is well served in her professional role.