Survival Tips for Working the Night Shift at the Hospital

Justin Willis

How to Survive This Year's Physician Shortage

There are fewer roles in healthcare that are as misunderstood as that of the night-shift team. While the rest of the world is sleeping, they are providing an invaluable service that is often unrecognized and underappreciated. So why do they do it? There are major advantages to working the night shift such as premium pay, less bureaucracy and more autonomy, plus fewer interruptions from families and other caregivers. However, adjusting your bodies rhythm to the night shift is no simple feat.

After surveying hundreds of physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals, MedSource Consultants compiled their survival tips for your late shift role at the hospital.

Plan Out Your Meals and Focus on Hydration

Most hospitals don’t have a 24-hour cafeteria, so remember to bring lunch and snacks. This will help you maintain a consistent flow of energy, even if it’s 2:00 AM. Try to focus on healthy on-the-go snacks, such as grapes, almonds, pumpkin seeds or a protein bar.

Keep a water bottle near you at all times. In the same way you’d monitor fluid intake for a patient, keep track of how much you’re drinking. If you feel a headache settling around your shoulders, it may be a warning that you are simply dehydrated.

As far as caffeine goes, the circadian nadir is between 3am and 6am, so it may be tempting to drink more coffee to keep awake but remember if it is consumed four hours before the end of your shift it will make it harder to sleep.

Naturally Adjust Your Sleep Schedule

Adjusting to the night shift can be hard so we recommend a good pair of light canceling shades or curtains in your bedroom. Set up a regular schedule for work and sleep and this should carry into your time off. If you significantly change your sleep schedule it can have an adverse effect on your health. So, set up a regular routine that allows you to relax into sleep after a long shift.

Never begin a dependence on sleep aids. Sleeping pills can be habit forming. Let your body come down naturally from an evening shift. Incorporate calming exercises and a schedule where you gradually and naturally fall into sleep during the day.

Lastly, don’t go straight from the day shift to night shift. Instead, consider a gradual move toward a full schedule of nights. This will allow your body to gradually adjust without causing any hardship or stress.

Smart Technology Can Help Regulate Your Night

Buy a good watch. The newer smartwatches can track things like steps, hydration, or other health-related issues to help you stay aware of how you’re treating your body. You can set alarms to remind you of important things such as drinking more fluids. A digital watch can also do what it’s intended and track your on-duty time.

Find Your New Routine after the NightShift

Our bodies are controlled by our body clock, situated in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus. It generates circadian rhythms that regulate the physiological processes in the body. Working nights causes a mismatch between the circadian timing system and environmental synchronizers. Circadian rhythms are strongly influenced by natural light and dark, so wearing dark shades on your way home, using earplugs, blacking out curtains and turning off your phone, will limit the effects and make it is easier to sleep during the day.

If you are still wound up when you get home, try meditating, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or tackling some house chores. Whatever works best for you, see if you can spend an hour decompressing before you hit the sack. That way you can crash with a clear conscience. 

Find Your Next Job with MedSource Consultants Today!

Working the night shift has some distinct advantages. If you’d like to learn more about our available opportunities – both day and night shifts, talk to MedSource Consultants. We can help you find your next career. Search our available opportunities or connect with our team of leading recruiters today.