Most people work 8 to 10-hour days, mostly sitting in a chair behind a computer. As a per diem nurse, it’s likely you’ll be picking up some 12-hour shifts, or deciding to work the occasional 16-hour double shift. Although these offer significant financial benefits, the long hours on your feet can take a toll on your health. Consider using these tools to help you power through to survive and thrive on your next long shift.
Research has demonstrated your body needs between 7 and 8 hours of quality sleep each night to support your immune system and reduce the number of colds you might experience. Aim to be in bed between 8 and 9 hours to allow yourself time to fall asleep. Consider using a sleep mask to increase your body’s melatonin production, especially if you are sleeping during the day and working at night.
Your body’s fuel is the food you eat. If you feed yourself junk, it’s more likely you’ll suffer more colds, get tired more quickly and hungry during the middle of your shift.
You will not always be able to take a break when scheduled, or get to the cafeteria before an emergency or high patient census calls you back to the unit. Don’t let your energy plummet. Instead, pack a snack you can easily carry in your scrubs that can be eaten when you have a moment to spare. These are not energy or cereal bars, but snacks made with whole, nutritious foods, such as raw nuts, seeds, raisins or a high-quality granola bar.
If you’re wearing shoes that don’t fit properly, by the end of an 8-hour shift your feet will be sore. By the end of 12 hours you may be limping. If you are staring down a second 12-hour shift in as many days, consider bringing a change of shoes you can switch to after six hours. Your legs use different small muscles in different shoes. By switching your shoes mid-shift you give your legs a much -needed break.
Being a per diem nurse is physically taxing. It’s important to protect your back and legs no matter how long your shift is. Learn proper lifting techniques, whether you’re moving an adult patient, pushing a bed or moving machinery. Take a few minutes to stretch every couple of hours to loosen tight muscles and reduce your risk of injury.
When you’re on your feet for multiple hours, blood tends to pool in your legs. This leads to feelings of fatigue, a high risk of varicose veins and potentially swelling in your feet. Compression stockings keep your legs feeling fresh and energized throughout your shift.
Mental fatigue is as important as physical fatigue. When you get a break, leave the unit. This helps you relax more fully so you’re refreshed and ready to go when you return. Distract yourself from your patients while you’re off the unit doing something you enjoy, like reading a book, talking to friends or walking outside.
Working long shifts is one of the challenges of being a nurse, but by using these strategies, you’ll protect your health, your back and be able to enjoy the extra income from working that long shift. You may even be tempted to pick up more!
Would you like to work per diem nursing shifts with a company that cares about you? At Capital Healthcare Solutions, it’s our job to help you grow your professional career.