• 04 May 2021
  • 8 min read

A NICU Nurse’s Advice For Coping With Night Shifts

  • Nicola Wiafe
    NICU Nurse
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Richard Gill
    • Mat Martin
  • 0
  • 534
Play video: "I personally find that your first night shift is always the hardest one. Everyone's got their own opinion on which night shift is the hardest, but for me, it's always the first one"

Nicola's top night shift tips include keeping your routine going, dosing up on Vit D, and making sure your roster works for you - plus more!

Topics Covered In This Video

If Night Shifts Work For You, Stick With It

Keep Up Your Usual Routine

Dose Up On Vitamin D

Get Napping

Don’t Go Straight To Bed After Your Shift

Think About Your Eating Schedule And Diet

Speak Out If Your Roster Isn’t Working For You!

Be Organised

If Night Shifts Work For You, Stick With It

My name is Nicola, and I'm a neonatal nurse.

Today I'm going to be talking to you all about night shifts and giving you some of my tips and tricks that I use to survive night shifts.

So night shifts are an inevitable part of your nursing career, they're definitely gonna be part of your journey as a student nurse, and depending on the nursing role that you decide to go for when you qualify, they will also be a part of your nursing career.

And so I think it's really important to have tips and tricks up your sleeve to be able to help you to survive your night shift.

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The first thing that I would say is that if you have a routine that works for you and you find that you're able to breeze through your night shifts quite easily, stick with it.

There's no need to change a routine that isn't broken.

Keep Up Your Usual Routine

My second tip for you is to make sure that you maintain contact with your support system.

Night shifts can be extremely isolating, it's not uncommon for you not to see your friends and your family, communication can be quite stagnant.

And generally speaking, night shifts can actually be really emotionally draining.

And so I personally find that maintaining contact with your support system, whether that's through a text, a phone call, a FaceTime if possible, can really help to lift your spirits, it can really help with that feeling of isolation and can help you to get through your night shifts more easily.

Dose Up On Vitamin D

My third tip for you is to get your dose of vitamin D.

It can be really difficult, particularly in the winter, being on night shifts.

You wake up and it's dark, you're going home and it's dark.

You wake up in the middle of your sleep and it's dark.

And it's really, really actually quite unhealthy.

So if you're able, you know, to spend five to 10 minutes outside prior to you sleeping, or prior to your shift, getting some fresh air and some vitamin D, you can find that it will really, really make a massive difference to how you get through your night shifts as well.

Get Napping

My next tip for you, another tip that I would advise for you to do is at the start of your night shifts, is to try and get a nap in.

I personally find that your first night shift is always the hardest one.

Everyone's got their own opinion on which night shift is the hardest, but for me, it's always the first one.

So I find if I can get a good couple hours nap in before my shift, I find that it really, really helps me on my first night shift.

Don’t Go Straight To Bed After Your Shift

...and if you're not able to nap in the day, then I would say, just try and take it easy.

Have a day that is, you know, quite relaxing. It's not too busy, not too strenuous, because you're gonna need to get through a 12 hour shift after.

So as tempting as it is when you get in from a night shift and you're so tired, and all you want to do is sleep, try and wind down before bed.

The same way that you have a nighttime routine when you are on a day shift, you should have a nighttime routine when you are on a night shift.

So you might have your shower, have your breakfast, have a cup of tea.

You might watch maybe a little bit of television.

You might read a book, whatever works for you but I just find that when you wind down before bed, you mentally prepare yourself, I find that you sleep for longer. I've always found that if I come home and I just try and get straight into sleep, I'll always wake up early. And my sleep was always quite fragmented as well.

Think About Your Eating Schedule And Diet

So some people do eat on night shifts like myself, and other people don't but I always think it's a really good idea to have some sort of food or snack on standby, because you never know how you're gonna feel during your night shift.

You might be really, really hungry or you might not be.

So it's always a good idea to have some backup to keep you going. I would also say in your lunch box, to make sure that you've got some herbal teas in there like peppermint or lemon and ginger.

I have personally found that night shifts can make you feel really nauseous.

And so having some herbal tea sachets in there can really help settle that feeling.

And it's never failed me. So you can thank me later for that tip!

Speak Out If Your Roster Isn’t Working For You!

Most trusts follow the guidelines of 50% days and 50% nights.

However, we know that sometimes it's not always as clear cut as that. Sometimes you might find that you're doing 60, 40, sometimes you might be doing, you know, 70, 30.

But what I would say, is that just make sure that your roster is enabling you to have some day shifts and that your roster is not having you on a crazy patterns of night shifts, where you're doing one night, then you're off and you're on a day and then you're on a night, your pattern's all over the place.

Your roster should be done in such a way that means your night shifts are grouped together nicely and it enables you to have adequate rest in between, before you go on to day shifts or before you go onto another set of nights.

And what I would say, if that isn't the case and it's affecting you and you're struggling mentally, physically, emotionally, you need to speak up and you should address that with management or the person that does the roster.

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Do you have any questions about night shifts?

Ask Nicola questions below

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Don't be shy to speak out and say, "I'm struggling with these nights and I'm struggling with how you're giving them to me. I need you to make some adjustments", because it's really important that you are able to work effectively.

Night shifts are already difficult as it is and the last thing you need to be is really, really tired on your shift because that's how mistakes and accidents happen.

Be Organised

I would really advise you to be organised. Organisation is key.

Do your food shopping and your food cooking ahead of time.

Have your meals prepped and ready to go, your uniform ready, your bag ready.

All those little things make a massive difference to helping you to be ready for your night shift.

I think the number one thing that people really struggle with is being organized with their food.

And so meal prepping is absolutely key.

I like to make sure that I've got enough meals to get me through in case I wake up in the middle of the day and I like to have enough meals to get me through my night shifts as well.

I find that having your meals prepped and ready to go eliminates the chances of you getting takeaways, going down to the canteen, snacking.

And so if you can get into a habit of meal prepping and having things that are ready, it will really, really help make your life that much easier.

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Do you have any questions about night shifts?

Ask Nicola questions below

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About the author

  • Nicola Wiafe
    NICU Nurse

My name is Nicola Wiafe and I am a NICU Nurse with six years worth of Nursing experience. I have previously worked in the NHS, Australia and now I am on a career break Nursing in the Middle East. I also run a Nurse-led aesthetics business alongside my NICU Nursing and I am currently completing my level 7 qualification in aesthetics medicine. I am really passionate about encouraging Nurses to strike a work life balance that works for them.

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  • Nicola Wiafe
    NICU Nurse

About the author

  • Nicola Wiafe
    NICU Nurse

My name is Nicola Wiafe and I am a NICU Nurse with six years worth of Nursing experience. I have previously worked in the NHS, Australia and now I am on a career break Nursing in the Middle East. I also run a Nurse-led aesthetics business alongside my NICU Nursing and I am currently completing my level 7 qualification in aesthetics medicine. I am really passionate about encouraging Nurses to strike a work life balance that works for them.

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