One in five people work during the night or have rotating shifts. These workers are doing essential work: caring for patients, protecting citizens, and providing services for customers or passengers. For many healthcare professionals, night shifts may be the only option when starting a new job. While most workers will move to the day shift when possible, others find several advantages to remaining on the “graveyard” shift:
• More time during the day to take care of errands, attend school functions, or keep appointments
• Studies show that night shift workers spend about 4.4 hours a day with their children, about 30 minutes more than day shift workers
• Night shifts pay a differential that can make a difference in the worker’s income
• Shifts can be less hectic and stressful, with fewer interruptions and visitors
Still, there is no denying that working a night shift, or rotating between days and nights, causes fatigue. The CNA may have a higher patient load. Patients may not be awake, but need to have position changes and incontinence care. Some facilities begin waking and dressing patients during the end of the shift. Also, night shifts often require tasks other than direct patient care, such as cleaning equipment and stocking supplies.
How can you make the best of night shifts? Here are some tips from other CNAs:
• Eat a balanced “breakfast” before going to work.
• After getting report, make rounds and set a tentative schedule for the night.
• Work with other CNAs as a team whenever possible.
• Don’t drink too much coffee at the beginning of the shift, because it can cause you to “crash” later in the night. Avoid it halfway through the shift, so you can sleep better when you get home.
• Avoid sugar and bring foods with protein to keep your blood sugar level.
• Know your own sleep habits. After a night shift, some people need to go straight to bed. Others like to stay up, and sleep before going into work. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible to mimic nights.
• Try to do home-related tasks, such as grocery shopping and paying bills, during your regular non-sleep time.
• Make time to exercise and eat a balanced diet. Your health comes first!
• Speaking of health, keep your medical and dental check-up appointments.
• Find a hobby that you can bring with you. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, knitting, and reading are examples. You may not be able to do them every night, but you will have a way to keep your mind alert during slow times.
Working the night shift is not for everyone. But when you prepare, and get adequate rest, you may find that it fits your needs, at least for the short term. Many CNAs enjoy the camaraderie that develops from working closely with others, as well as the laid-back atmosphere.
PLEASE LIKE OR SHARE THIS BLOG ARTICLE ON FACEBOOK