How Night Shift Workers Can Balance Work and Home TimeI haven’t had to work a 12-hour shift, particularly a night shift in a few years. I worked hard at placing myself in a position where I no longer have to do shift-work. I don’t know if I could get through one now. In fact, I get chest pain just thinking about it.

All I did while working night shifts was complain about how tired and cold I was. Sometimes, I consider going back into bedside nursing. I loved it. I treasured the hustle and bustle, I loved running around and multi-tasking and being part of a bigger team.

Mostly, I valued the patients. But then age and a back injury set in, and I thought “Nope, can’t do this anymore”. I am not even fifty yet. Yikes. I know if push came to shove, I can do ANYTHING that I set my mind to, that includes bedside, shift-work nursing. But, I feel like I paid my dues, I did my time. I did the long shifts and the statutory holidays for about fifteen years and my body begs me not to go down that road again.

How Are You Getting Through the Night?

So, what about our fellow nurses? How are they getting through the day (or night)? I think about my colleagues often. Many love ward nursing and I respect them for that. I just wonder how people do it for 20-30 years?

Shift work takes its toll on you. Some say “it takes years off your life!” Does that mean I am going to die at 80 instead of 85? Maybe I got out on time? Kidding aside, I know ‘times have changed’ since I was doing hospital nursing five years ago. I hear it's even tougher now, and man it was tough then. Nurses often work short-staffed and are expected to do more with less. There are volumes of studies about how unhealthy it is to work such long hours, not only for staff but for the patient.

Nonetheless, many nurses say that they like the 12-hour shifts better, it provides them more time at home with family, and less time in the hospital. Fair enough. But, I would like to know how they are doing it, or rather, are they doing it well? I perused the web to see how nurses are coping with extended shifts and I hand-picked my favorite techniques to get through the day (or night). I think it takes balance, harmonizing how much you do at work, and how you use your time on your days off.

I know you have heard this many times, but you have to take care of your physical vulnerabilities. And I mean truly do this, don’t just say you will and fall into the typical ‘not taking care of yourself but taking care of everyone else’ routine:

  • Get enough sleep each day
  • Eat well
  • Exercise
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol
  • See a doctor when you are ill
  • Meditate
  • Live mindfully
  • Grow gratitude

Work well with your co-workers. Sadly, you spend more time with them then you do with loved ones:

  • Build a camaraderie with those you work with
  • Use effective communication with each other
  • Help out on the unit
  • Have a night out with your colleagues every few months

Have ‘YOU’ time (and no that doesn’t mean cooking for your family or driving the kids around). This means YOU as in ‘no chores or responsibilities’ but something for you to relish! Maybe sleep in with your partner and have a lazy day. Or, why not…

  • Walk
  • Read
  • Have dinner out with your friends
  • Go to a movie
  • Crochet
  • Take an art class
  • Develop a new hobby
  • Host a dinner party
  • Get out of town

And my favorite, ‘Work on your future. Daydream, plan, then take action.

  • First, what does that future look like? Close your eyes, release fear and believe
  • Make SMART goals
  • Develop a renovation plan for your house
  • Drive by the farm you want to own one day
  • Map out a big vacation
  • Develop a business plan
  • Take courses at the local university
  • JUST DREAM

Well, that’s enough of me lecturing you. You know what you need. I think I speak for many when I say, we sure appreciate the bedside nurse who is working short, running around, not eating and barely sleeping when they get home. THANK YOU… and please find your balance.

“You can get what you want or you can just get old.”
― Billy Joel