12-hour shifts are often the ideal schedule for health care professionals but working those long hours can take a toll on our health and well-being. With COVID Crisis assignments being upwards of 48-72 hours, here are some pro-tips for staying healthy at work and in everyday life.
Meal prepping is a great way to make healthy choices for your work week. My hospital has a cafeteria and on night shift they are open until 1am but they don’t have the healthiest options. A lot of night shift workers like to snack and gorge out on the fried foods from the cafeteria. I buy groceries and meal prep the day before my stretch so that everything is ready to go! Preparing and dividing up your food into three days so that it is easy to grab and go relieves you of the stress of preparing meals daily. If you don’t already have a healthy grocery list, don’t be afraid to look up recipes. Pinterest, Instagram, food magazines and a general internet search will give you several healthy recipe options. Don’t forget to shop around the perimeter of a grocery store (fruits, veggies, meat etc.) and stay away from the inner snack aisles (food with a lot of preservatives and sugar). Also, to stay satiated at work, I always eat a small meal before work followed by snacks after assessing all my patients and then taking a break for my full lunch.
I love bringing lots of snacks to work (and anywhere that isn’t home) because I’m always hungry and it prevents me from buying random junk food. Some of my go to snacks are:
-Hummus with rice chips, bell peppers, or carrots
- Yogurt parfait (Vanilla yogurt topped with chia seeds, peanut butter and blueberries)
- Granola bars (Rx bars, Luna bars, Nature Valley bars)
-Apples with almond/peanut butter
-Hard boiled eggs
I wish I liked the gym more for strength training but unfortunately, I’ve never found a sustainable way to fit it into my work schedule. If you can make it to the gym, more power to you! I wake up every day after night shift at 1530 and immediately hop onto my yoga mat for either yoga, Pilates, or HIIT. I use free YouTube videos to help guide me through and keep me motivated. Getting up out of bed and working out before doing anything helps me stick to my routine. I also like to do 30-day challenges because then I don’t have to search for a new video every day. MedVenture has also partnered up with Shock Fitness App, giving its users 3 months for free! The app has a variety of workouts that can cater to your needs. Download the Shock Fitness App here and use the code https://redeemco.com/g/shock-3-free/ for three months for free!
Not everyone likes to stick to “working out” to stay active and in shape. I also love all activities outdoors. Hiking, biking, backpacking, bouldering and snowboarding are all things I enjoy and don’t feel forced like some work outs. I do them for enjoyment but also for staying in shape. It’s also super fun/motivating to do these activities with friends so post more outdoor activities/meet ups on the MedVenture app!
Finally, sleep. We all require different amounts of sleep. Being a night shift worker, I usually get in about 7.5 hours. My room doesn’t currently have black out curtains (highly recommend) so I wear a comfortable eye mask. Sometimes I’ll even wear it at night and I fall asleep almost instantly. I typically stick to one cup of coffee at the beginning of shift and switch to tea if I need another boost during the shift. I try to stop all fluids (caffeine or not) around 4am so that I can fall asleep quickly and don’t have to wake up as often to use the bathroom. Research states that night shift nurses are deficient in melatonin so even though I can usually fall asleep rather quickly after a shift, I still regularly take a small dose of melatonin to keep my sleep cycle well regulated.
A few extra tips
Don’t forget to take care of your mental health. Talk to friends, family or a therapist whenever you need someone to lend an ear. Everyone needs down days to recuperate and relax. Massages and just plain stretching are great for nurses as we’re always bending over, lifting patients and walking on hard, cement floors for long shifts. And by golly don’t forget to hydrate!
Written by: Ashley Novak, Travel RN and Health Enthusiast