Written by Joanne Potter BSN, RN
While many people are getting ready to settle in to watch a TV show or have dinner with the family, night shift nurses are just starting their shift. If you are, or have ever been, a night shift nurse, you know how challenging it can be at times. Even with its challenges, I preferred night shift and worked nights for over fifteen years.
During my years working nights, I learned strategies that helped me balance work and life while still getting enough sleep. Organizing my work week was key.
How do you organize a schedule that’s not a traditional one? Here, we’ll take a look at the tips that have worked for me over the years.
While this isn’t always possible, I much preferred to work my shifts in a row. Yes, it’s exhausting having to work three shifts in a row. However, I found I felt more rested if I didn’t have my shifts split up.
Having my shifts in a row meant I was able to stay on my night schedule for those three days that I worked. This left four days off to schedule things while not having to worry about my sleep and work schedule.
Keeping my shifts together also helped me to get longer, more quality sleep. This way, I didn’t have to flip my sleep schedule back and forth multiple times during the week.
Meal planning was crucial for me as a night shifter. I would spend some time on one of my days off making a menu and prepping meals. I knew during my three-day stretch of shifts that I didn’t want to cook. Therefore, I made sure I had meals that were ready to go, so all I had to do was heat it up in the oven, get everyone fed, and head off to work.
I not only planned my dinners before each shift, but I planned all my lunches for the week. I would have three lunches divided up, ready to go.
This may seem daunting, having to cook and meal prep on a day off, but it’s worth it. You can also keep it simple. Prepare meals that don’t take a lot of time or energy. Slow cooker or instant pot recipes are perfect for this. When the weather is nice, take advantage of grilling—enjoy the sunshine while meal prepping. Find quick and easy meals that you can easily put together on a day off. By doing this, it’ll help your workweek to go smoothly.
Protect Your Sleep
The tips I mentioned above were things I implemented that ultimately enabled me to get more sleep. People that don’t work night shift don’t understand the challenges it brings. Therefore, it’s imperative that you protect your sleep by setting boundaries.
The following sleep tips were helpful for me:
Setting phone to “do not disturb”
Darkening room with blackout shades or getting a sleep mask
When possible, schedule things for your days off, like repair people, your own personal appointments, etc
Coming up with an organized schedule and plan helps to keep things from having to be scheduled during your stretch of shifts. This may not always be possible, but by coming up with a plan it will at least cut down on the number of times these things cut into your sleeping hours. The important things to remember here are planning and organization to help your week to go smoothly.
About the Author
Joanne Potter BSN, RN is a writer that specializes in health and wellness. She has fifteen years of experience as a Registered Nurse in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Her years working on the frontlines at the bedside enable her to write with a deep understanding of what patients want from their communities.