Nursing is hard work at any time; however, switching to the night shift can really take its toll on your health, resulting in extreme tiredness, which can affect your concentration, and sleep disruption, which can affect your energy levels. Night work can cause mental as well as physical upsets, so it’s very important to prepare yourself for a change of shifts beforehand and to really look after yourself once you’re working overnight on a regular basis. Here are a few things that you can do to help yourself stay healthy and fit.
Respect Your Sleep Cycle
Your natural circadian rhythm has to make a big readjustment on night shift, when you’re meant to be alert and working during a period you are normally asleep. One thing that may help is installing blackout blinds wherever you plan to sleep during daylight hours. Screening out daylight may make it easier to get to sleep. A sleep mask and ear plugs may also prove useful. Also, there are a few other things that might help, some of which are practiced by seasoned travelers who frequently move through several different time zones on long-haul flights.
Schedule Your Sleep
Once your schedule is embedded in a period of night working, it will actually help you to maintain a consistent timetable. Try to do this even on your nights off, if you know that you will be working the shift for, say, ten weeks in a row. Setting up a regular regime can help enormously, and there’s no harm in building in a nap. Try doing some light exercise and then having a shower after your shift. Aim to sleep for four or five hours and then have a nutritious meal. You can always have a final short nap: two hours should be enough for you to feel refreshed and ready for work. If you find it difficult to sleep during daylight hours, you can always take melatonin, a supplement used to combat jet lag.
Exercise for Better Health
Don’t be misled into thinking that you should give up your exercise routine when on night shift – quite the opposite. You don’t need to do a full gym workout; however, light exercise will make you feel better, and there are some clever aids that will help you become fitter more quickly. One way to feel great while working out is to wear a compression shirt to get extra support for your back, arms, and shoulders, provided by the clothing’s built in compression features. You can also get support for other body areas, depending on the kind of exercise that you prefer. Compression wear is also worn as a lifestyle choice – for example, compression socks will support your legs while you’re on your feet at work.
Exercise may sound impossible to nurses working 12-hour shifts, but being consistent can help you maintain your energy and keep you at your best. If you can’t do a workout on the days that you are on shift, you can always opt for a brisk walk or a gentle yoga session. Any low-impact activity is better than none. On your days off, you can always take a trip to the gym or try out some weights.
It’s tempting to fill up on lots of food at mealtimes on the basis that this might benefit your energy levels; however, be warned that regular heavy, stodgy meals will actually have the opposite effect. Your stomach will feel uncomfortably full, and if you wash down greasy food with gallons of caffeine, you’re on a self-destructive path that may make you more sleepless than ever.
To avoid energy drain halfway through your shift, try to eat frequent small nutritious snacks that include plenty of minerals and vitamins, such as salads, nuts, fresh fruit, or dishes with lots of vegetables.
You probably already bring a bottle of water with you to work, but if not, it’s good to consider doing so. Drinking water can help you to stay alert and may reduce your level of tiredness during your shift. Other nutritious drinks include herbal teas, with reduced or no sugar, and fruit or vegetable juices, with reduced sodium. Avoid alcohol before, during, and after work as well as soft drinks that are loaded with sugar. Like caffeine, sugary drinks will give you a temporary boost that will wear off pretty quickly during your working hours.
Look After Yourself
The key message, then, is look after yourself when you’re working night shifts and be aware of the likely impacts on your personal well-being. Be prepared and you’re likely to cope well and recover quicker.
Are you thinking it’s time to test the water on a job search? Is your career feeling stagnant and you think it’s time to move to a new organization or even a new branch of nursing?
What can help you with your decision if you’re not ready for a full-fledged job search?
Testing out whether it’s time for a job switch takes some thought and a little bit of work. Here are a few ways nurses can gather information without jumping into a full search.
Sit in on Seminars
Find some seminars or classes that will help you decide if you want to move from emergency nursing to travel nursing or from infusion nursing to cardiac care. Get some experience, talk to a professor or class leader, and chat with others in the room (even in online classes) to get a point of reference in your job change decision.
Become a Visible Networker
Networking isn’t all about finding a new job, but it is about becoming noticed in your profession. And if you have an active and extensive network when you are looking for a job, you’ll have a valuable resource. Find association meetings, nursing groups, or even a few general business groups and regularly attend meetings. Meet new people and offer your help as well.
Go to a Career Fair
Find a healthcare career fair and take some time walking around. Come prepared with resumes just in case you find an excellent opportunity, but make gathering information your primary goal. Investigate what jobs are out there and see how your qualifications measure up.
Whether you take on more responsibility in your current role or gain skills on a team to learn new skills (volunteering for your town’s emergency response team, for instance), know you need to learn more. Start the process for a new certification or volunteer to learn the new software at work – just make sure your skills are current, cutting-edge, and marketable.
If you decide a career move is your next step, you’ll be ready with a solid understanding of the available opportunities and how your skills will meet the market needs.
Nurses provide top quality care in all settings, but critical care transport nurses have a slightly different typical treatment space. They could administer life-saving care in an ambulance moving at top speed or in flight thousands of feet in the air.
Every February 18, the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association (ASTNA) sponsors Critical Care Transport Nurses Day to recognize the work in this distinctive branch of nursing.
Critical care transport nurses provide on-scene nursing care in instances when patients need to be transported from one location to another. It could be an ambulance or a medflight taking patients from one institution to another or from an accident scene to a medical facility.
Transport nurses generally work as part of an emergency response team or as part of a transport team in non-emergency situations. They will provide assessments of a patient’s condition, injuries, vital signs, and will remain with the patient during transport to make sure the patient is kept stabilized.
Transport nurses often work within constantly shifting teams. Being able to adapt to and work within different frameworks will help you focus on your patient while fulfilling your role on the team.
If you are thinking this type of nursing would be a good choice for you, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. You must attain registered nurse credentials, several life support training credentials (adult/pediatric), and then gain at least two years of nursing experience in a critical care environment (like an emergency room). You’ll want experience in a general environment of critical care so you can be exposed to many different situations as that will mirror what you’ll see as a critical care transport nurse.
Because of the nature of working in an environment that is literally moving, you must be able to provide treatment in constantly changing environments. You’ll need to be able to lift and move patients with assistance, and be able to work electronically with team members at a medical care facility.
Transport nurses gain certification through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing in joint partnership with ASTNA. After you pass the certification exam, your certification will either be as a certified flight registered nurse (CFRN) if you typically operate in flight or as a certified transport registered nurse (CTRN) if your practice is generally in ground transport. If you practice on the ground and in flight, you can either choose the most pertinent certification or you may earn both certifications.
Critical care transport nursing will call on you to use every nursing skill you have and your situations will all be varied. On February 18, honor the critical care nurses in your organization!
So many times, nurses treat patients whose lives have been touched by drug or alcohol abuse. But what happens when the nurses themselves are addicts? Sadly, this happens more often than you might think. The American Nurses Association (ANA) has estimated that 10% of nurses suffer from a drug dependency, which could amount to around 300,000 addicted nurses.
Why do nurses abuse drugs and alcohol? For the same reasons other people abuse drugs and alcohol. One of these reasons is stress. Nursing can be a highly stressful profession. People with stressful jobs sometimes turn to alcohol and drugs to try to cope. Of course, using drugs and alcohol to deal with such stress can lead to dangerous repercussions for nurses and their patients.
Why Nurses Shouldn’t Try to Treat Themselves
Nurses are accustomed to achieving things and getting things done. Many nurses assume they can treat their addictions just as they handle other things in their lives. They treat other people in the course of their jobs, so they assume they can treat themselves as well.
This could be a mistake – a grave mistake. If nurses are drinking heavily and stop drinking abruptly – if they go cold turkey – their bodies could revolt. The symptoms could include DTs (delirium tremens), which can cause confusion, hallucinations, heart problems, and even death.
Instead, nurses with addictions might want to consider seeking help at dual diagnosis treatment centers. (A dual diagnosis occurs when people have both a substance abuse problem and a condition such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression.) Such treatments might help their clients address their drug and alcohol abuse. Why shouldn’t nurses try to seek the same help themselves?
Addiction Also Hurts Patients
Unfortunately, health care workers’ addictions can hurt more than the health care workers themselves. It can also hurt their patients. If nurses abuse alcohol or drugs, the nurses might:
- Take frequent absences from work. This could create staffing shortages where not enough nurses are available to care for patients at a doctor’s office or medical facility.
- Not be physically present when patients need them. This could be because the nurses are occupied using drugs or alcohol and not in the office or on the floors of the hospital.
- Be too distracted by hangovers or drug cravings to focus on their patients’ needs.
- Forget to administer their patients’ medications, give them the wrong dosages, or give them the wrong medications entirely.
- Steal medications from their patients.
This last consequence points to the widespread nature of opioid addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, around 1.9 million Americans struggled with problems related to prescription opioids in 2013. Nurses seem especially vulnerable because they often have ready access to such drugs. But addiction does not discriminate. It harms all types of people from all walks of life, hurting their health, relationships, jobs, and other areas of their lives. It’s simply the nature of the beast.
Opioids’ qualities can also contribute to this abuse. As we’ve said, nursing is stressful. Opioids are drugs that can relax people and produce effects that temporarily relieve stress, so nurses might turn to these drugs in times of crisis. A popular television show, Nurse Jackie, depicted a fictitious nurse using drugs in this way.
In real life, there is help for such drug use. Professionals at rehab centers acknowledge that stress and addiction often go hand-in-hand. The professionals can work with their clients to find ways to relieve stress that don’t involve drugs.
Opioids also provide painkilling effects. Since nursing can be incredibly physically demanding, many nurses struggle with pain. Some nurses turn to opioids to handle this pain. Some become addicted to them.
Doctors are also prescribing large numbers of opioids, increasing the likelihood of addiction even more. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2012, medical professionals issued 259 million prescriptions for painkillers. Nurses are just some of the millions of Americans who have access to such powerful drugs and have experienced their effects.
What Can Nurses Do?
Fortunately, addicted nurses can find help. On a state level, nurses can contact state boards of nursing and state nursing associations, such as the Massachusetts Nurses Association. They can direct nurses to programs and other treatments to help address their addictions. They could also help nurses if they are facing discipline for their actions.
Other help is also available. On a national level, websites such as AddictedNurse.com can help nurses with substance abuse and other issues. Other nursing and medical organizations offer resources for nurses who are dealing with substance abuse or recovering from it.
Nursing can be a tough profession. Substance abuse is also tough. But there are different kinds of resources and care, such as dual diagnosis treatment centers, that can help nurses seek the treatment they need to help themselves and their patients.
You worked hard to obtain your nursing license. As a minority, you had to overcome barriers many of your fellow students and current colleagues never had to address or consider. And now that you are here and building your career, it is up to you to protect it. Unfortunately, one small mistake at work or a less-than-professional occurrence in your personal life could lead to a license suspension or revocation. While you may not be able to eliminate this risk, there are ways to mitigate the risk of a complaint against you and disciplinary action.
Here are five steps you can take on a daily basis to protect your nursing license.
1. Focus on communication.
You need to clearly communicate the information you have to others. Breakdowns in communication between nurses, physicians, and other medical professionals lead to medical errors and poor outcomes for patients. Ensuring you communicate as best you can with your colleagues requires reviewing your facility’s systems and procedures, and then working within them as best you can. It may also require being vocal about improvements that could be made.
2. Always follow facility protocol.
When working in a stressful and fast-paced environment, there may come a time when someone wants to take a short cut. You may be asked to do something out of line with your facility’s procedures and policies. Always say no. If you believe what you are being asked to do is unethical per your state’s nursing board’s standards, refuse. It is always up to you to ensure your actions align with the law, your profession’s ethical standards, and your facility’s guidelines. Also, if you are not entirely sure of your facility’s protocols related to your position, it is up to you to learn them. Ignorance of a policy is never a defense.
3. Avoid relying on coworkers.
You want to be able to rely on your colleagues and help each other out from time-to-time. However, it is safest to assume that if something is your responsibility, you need to ensure it gets done. Do not ask your coworkers for favors. When something is your task, it will be on you if it goes wrong. Also, if a task could be done by more than one of you on duty, never assume someone else will get to it.
4. Keep your social media profiles private.
While it is perfectly OK to have social media profiles as a nurse, you must remember that everything you post online reflects upon you as an individual and professional. Aspects of your personal life can negatively impact your license and position. Because of this, keep your social media restricted to friends and family and be careful about what you post. If you are not sure how colleagues or your supervisors would take a comment, tweet, picture, or video, err on the side of caution and keep it offline.
5. Assume someone is watching.
No one wants to look over their shoulders all the time. However, nursing is heavily regulated and state boards are quick to suspend or revoke licenses. It is up to you to ensure your actions are above reproach. If you assume that all of your actions at work will be seen and judged, you have a consistent reminder to complete your tasks yourself, follow protocol, and communicate with your colleagues.
Have You Received a Letter From Your State Board?
Learning that someone has filed a complaint against you, and now you are subject of a board investigation, is all too common in the nursing profession. How you handle this information next matters. Your first instinct may be to try and deal with situation on your own. You may feel a simple explanation will clear things up. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Instead, you should contact an attorney who is experienced in administrative law and professional licensure. With an attorney on your side, you have someone who will protect your rights and fight for you to retain your nursing license.
A nursing license defense attorney can evaluate your situation and help you understand your options.
February 5 through 11 is a national observance of National PeriAnesthesia Nurse Awareness Week, sponsored by the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN). Nurses who help transition patients pre- and post-procedure are there to offer intensive medical care and equally essential caregiving. They especially want patients to know they are there for them. They are their advocates throughout the process.
If you are interested in a career as a perianesthesia nurse, you’ll find the challenges of the position range from using your advanced nursing skills in urgent situations to incorporating the most basic hands-on comfort skills. Charged with caring for patients at critical pre- and post-procedure points, perianesthesia nurses must be able to multitask, to identify and respond to patient conditions immediately, and to do this all with a calm demeanor to help keep patient stress at bay.
Perianesthesia nurses especially enjoy their work caring for patients before and after procedures that require any anesthesia. Before a procedure, they are the nurses who are there to find out any information that could have an impact on the anesthesia care. With more and more patients appearing with several health conditions, they have to factor in variables like medications, physical condition and limitations, and emotional stability in their patient assessment. While they are assessing and gathering information, they are also providing a calm and unwavering support to help nervous patients know they are in trusted hands.
Perianesthesia nurses are also there when patients come out of anesthesia and are sometimes confused, uncomfortable, or even nauseated or vomiting. Post-procedure, nurses are once again continually monitoring a patient, assessing vital signs, reassessing existing health conditions, and at the same time, offering that hands-on caregiving that helps patients feel safe. Perianesthesia nurses then help determine how a patient can safely move to their next place whether that is to home, another hospital, or another care facility.
Many perianesthesia nurses say they have perfected a way to develop a rapport with patients that can build the trust necessary for completing such a long task list in a short time and under pressure. Once a nurse has identified a topic that helps the patient relax, they can begin conversations about family, pets, schooling, movies, or books that are both informative for nurses and distracting for patients. Many nurses also say they use those nuggets in the conversation to help bring a patient out of a drowsy and sometimes confused anesthesia.
For those considering this branch of nursing, ASPAN offers many resources and is an excellent reference to find out information about certification (through the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc.) that must be renewed every three years, scholarships for education, career resources, mentoring opportunities, conferences, and up-to-date anesthesia information.
This week, recognize and appreciate the perianesthesia nurses on your team. Their skills often help the entire procedure proceed smoothly and safely.