Nursing shifts are anything but routine. New patients, uncertainty, and constant change can take its toll. K.B. Hudson of the Atlanta Journal Constitution recommends that having a pre-shift routine and shares the importance of it. Routines anchor us and help to reduce stress levels.
The structure of a daily routine is key in helping to deal with the inevitable unpredictability of the medical field. Additionally, a daily routine can benefit our health and mental well-being. Below are a few basic pre-shift habits every nurse should keep in mind.
It may seem obvious, but when asked about how to prepare for a shift, one of the top answers we received was, “Make sure to get enough sleep.” This is especially true for nurses in a hospital where the shifts can be 12-plus hours. Sleep deprivation can lead to a myriad of problems, including riskier decision making, according to Forbes. Another side effect of not getting adequate rest is a decline in cognitive flexibility, the ability to adjust our thoughts based on new information. Cognitive flexibility is critical in the medical field where new test results can completely change a diagnosis.
For many, coffee is the elixir of the gods that many of us rely on in our morning routine. The caffeine in coffee not only wakes us up, but it can also improve memory and mood. Coffee can improve physical performance by boosting the adrenaline levels in your blood, too. However, if coffee is not to your particular taste, you can try alternatives such as black or Chai tea.
In a profession like nursing, situations often arise that demand your full attention and you may not know when you will get a chance to have a meal while on the clock. Making sure not to just eat, but to eat healthily, is critical. According to Dr. David S. Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston, not eating will cause you to start your shift with an energy deficit. Some examples of breakfast foods to try are whole grains such as bran cereal, proteins such as yogurt and smoothies. Avoid refined carbohydrates and saturated fat since they can cause sluggishness. Another temptation to avoid is fast food breakfast items as they tend to be high in sodium and low in fiber.
As stated above, nursing shifts can be demanding with long intervals between breaks and meals. Be sure to load up with healthy snacks such as nuts, dark chocolate and yogurts. Snacks to avoid are novelties like candy bars and energy drinks.
Make time to mentally preparing yourself. This can be broad and subjective. Nurses we interviewed recommended all kinds of pre-shift mental prep habits, including meditation, listening to loud music on the way to work as a distraction and going over the next day’s assignments to avoid surprises.