Tuesday 28 January 2020

Student Midwife Life | How To Survive Night Shifts

For the next few months I am working in a hospital for my placement; the shifts consist of long day shifts and night shifts. My mentor prefers night shifts, so the majority of the shifts I have done so far have been 19:30 starts until 08:00 the following morning.
Night shifts are not for everyone - you either love them or hate them. I had never done a night shift before this placement, so I wasn't sure what to expect. So far I am loving them, but there were a few things that I had to adjust in order to fully prepare myself for them and to ensure that I was safe to be working.

Sleep Schedule
The main change I needed to make before night shifts was my sleep schedule. I found that what works best for me is to stay up rather late the night before my first night shift. I tend to stay awake until about 1:30am doing uni work before heading to bed. I will then wake up around 6am as normal to get the girls ready for school and nursery. Once they are both dropped off, I come back home and get some things done for an hour or so before I go back to sleep until around 2pm. Once I've picked the girls up I go about my usual routine with making food etc before I have to leave around 6pm. After my night shift has finished and I arrive home around 08:45am and head straight to bed. So far, this has been working well for me but I would love to hear other sleep schedules.

I have to eat something on a night shift, even if it's something small. I tend to be more of a grazer than a big meal kind of person, so have found that taking lots of little snacks works best for me. I've been gravitating towards malt loaf bars, nuts, pretzels, cheese strings, granola, yogurts etc. I also don't drink tea or coffee, so when it comes to sourcing caffeine I tend to stick to an energy drink which is not the best advice! When it comes to main meals, I tend to have one before I head to work and another a couple of hours before I am due to finish. I try to eat something with carbs rather than fatty foods as these can make me feel rather sluggish and tired. I also make sure I have something to eat for the drive home, such as a cereal bar.

My current commute is around a 40 minute drive, so ensuring that I am alert whilst driving is crucial, especially after two back to back night shifts. The majority of shifts I car share with other girls on my cohort who also have a night shift on the same night. When driving by myself, I make sure that I have a snack to eat, have the heating turned off, windows open, and a good playlist or podcast to listen to during the drive. Sometimes I will even ring a friend who I know would be awake at that time to have a chat. A top tip is to let a friend or family member know when you are leaving your place of work and what route you are planning on taking too, just in case. If you start to feel sleepy on the drive home, pull in and take a nap; the risk isn't worth it!

I am still rather new to night shifts, so may end up adapting my routine, but so far, this seems to be working well for me. If you have any night shift tips I would love to hear them!


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