Five Steps to Survive Long Nursing Shifts

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Even when you’re brand new to nursing school, it doesn’t take long to hear the rumblings of how to survive the professional realities of long and overnight shifts. We have some tips from the pros to help you not just survive but thrive as a new LVN.

1. Take Your Breaks

When you get busy, especially as you’re working with multiple patients and doing rounds, it can be easy to let a break pass you by. One of the ways to avoid burning out in this career is taking each and every break to which you’re entitled. Granted, you may have to postpone one by a few minutes, or even an hour, here or there, but by all means, take them. Coordinate with your team so you never leave your patients unattended. If you feel like you’re being pressured to abandon your breaks, sit down with the facility’s HR manager and have an open-hearted discussion about your rights.

2. Get Plenty of Sleep

Shift changes can easily cause sleep disruption. This is completely normal and happens to everyone. So, you have to adapt as soon as possible. Invest in blackout shades or drapes so that when you do work overnight shifts, you can keep your bedroom dark during the day. Ask your friends and colleagues about their sleep schedules and start to take their recommendations for avoiding sleeplessness. Don’t try and do too much during the day before your next shift. Make sure your boss schedules you for at least 10 hours off time to give you time to catch up. If the house is noisy, keep earplugs and an eye mask on the bedstand to stop your snooze from being interrupted by leaf blowers or barking dogs.

3. Hydrate and Eat Right

Drink the right kinds of fluids, like water, and limit the wrong kind, like sugary soda and caffeinated drinks. Of course, caffeine is going to get you through some rough patches here and there, but try not to abuse it; it could end up disrupting your precious sleep (see number 2). Eat lots of low-fat, high-protein meals, watch the sugary and high-fat snacks, especially the types found in vending machines. Buy healthy nuts, like almonds and non-perishable fruit like apples and bananas to keep you going between meals. Avoid fast food, and pack your own lunches from scratch to stay on top of of what you’re putting in your body.

4. Take Your Sick Days

The moment you feel the sniffles coming on, or if you’re concerned that you’ve got the flu, go home or stay in bed. Your colleagues and your patients will thank you. Stay away until you’re certain you’re not contagious and you feel well enough to do regular errands. If you don’t feel up to running to the grocery store or taking the dog for a walk, you’re probably not well enough to take care of other people for 12 hours at a stretch, either.

5. Exercise

No one is suggesting that you hit the gym after you put in a double. But, gym time, or whatever your preferred form of exercise, is especially important with a demanding field like nursing. As soon as you know your schedule, block out time to get in at least three to four hours a week of vigorous walking, exercise classes, yoga, cycling, or sports. There may even be a few sports leagues at work you can join to sweat it out and have fun with your colleagues. You’ll need every bit of the endorphins that exercise produces to get through some tough days. Even if you have to drag yourself, you’ll always feel better in the long run when you’re taking care of body.

These five steps are good, general advice for anyone, but they are especially important for budding LVNs. Self-care is a big step in avoiding burnout and enjoying your nursing career. If you have any questions about your LVN career, we’re here to help. Email us by clicking here or call us at 310-559-0225.


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