When you’re a nurse you know the long hours that are involved, and you know you may end up staying beyond your shift for a couple of reasons. If you’re new to the profession it is a good idea to plan ahead for your shift. Preparing for a nursing shift can help you combat the fatigue that comes with working long hours on your feet all day. Here are some tips that can help.
Make Sure You Eat and Prepare Some Snacks
Always eat a meal before you head to the hospital, this will help you make it through your long shift. Take note of how long your shift will be and when your break times are, this will allow you to plan ahead and bring enough snacks. Being hungry can make you tired and dizzy so pack some protein snacks like nuts, they can help you sustain your energy throughout your shift. This will also help you stay away from vending machines and sugary snacks. Here are some tips to help.
If for some reason you can’t bring snacks with you or you end up working longer than you have planned, try visiting the cafeteria. Most hospital cafeterias have gotten better over the years with the food that they sell, it not only tastes much better but there are healthier options there as well. It might be easier to grab food before your shift, you never know when you will have time to eat.
Naps Can be Your Friend
People who work long hours and night shifts like nurses do end up lacking in sleep. Your body clock can be completely messed up and this can affect your judgement. Try learning how to take power naps. If you can sleep soundly for a few minutes you can help keep your energy up. You can try power napping during your lunch break if you can find somewhere quiet. You can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to finish the last half of your shift.
As a nurse you not only work long hours but your shifts can often change. You can easily go from working days to nights to afternoons, all in the course of a week. You need to plan ahead as to not just when you sleep but to make sure that you aren’t too tired to function through your shift. Keep track of your hours and when breaks will happen. It will help you fight fatigue and keep your shifts productive.
Your education doesn’t stop once you finally get your nursing degree, in fact once you enter the workforce you will find that your learning has just begun. The hospital and if you work the emergency room are all high pressure environments. Nursing school will give you the practical knowledge that you need to pass the NCLEX and get your license. You will spend the rest of your career getting on the job training. Here is what you don’t learn in nursing school.
As part of your education you probably went through a couple of months working in the hospital, this is meant to give you an idea of what to expect when you graduate. This sounds nice in theory but as a student nurse you only have a couple of patients and you only work for a couple of hours at a time. You have support on hand in case you are in over your head, but that gives you very little experience in all the things that can happen during a nursing shift, with many of them being life and death.
Hands on Training
Clinical training is valuable, make no mistake, but it doesn’t teach you everything and we are not talking about the unusual things that happen in an ER. You may not have covered admissions or discharges during the clinical training. There is a ton of paperwork that accompanies admitting or discharging someone into the hospital you may not be familiar with. The other thing you probably didn’t cover in much depth is the ordering of medications, in particular narcotics. There is a process to ordering narcotics that you wouldn’t have been allowed to do as a student.
Managing Your Time
The two most valuable skills that any nurse needs is organization and time management, neither of which are taught in school. Your clinical training is very regimented and for a short time so you really don’t get the opportunity to learn this skill. Nurses multitask more than any other profession, they have to prioritize and organize what needs to be done continually throughout their shifts. Experienced nurses do hundreds of different tasks during one shift, if you don’t have this skill you will become a burden to the other staff you work with.
Nursing is an incredibly rewarding career, but school won’t prepare you for everything you will face on the nursing floor. It won’t prepare you for the first time that a patient passes away nor will it prepare you for the emergencies that will happen during your tenure.