Surviving Night Shift 101

Night shifts are not for the faint of heart. Even if night shift work is your dream job, there will be times when you feel anxious or frustrated with the night shift schedule. The night shift can be long and exhausting at times, but it’s important to know how to survive this grueling schedule in order to succeed. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some tips that will help make night shifts easier!

What Is My Job?

I’m a night shift pharmacist in the emergency department (ED). When I accepted the position, I was terrified of the lifestyle change. I’ve been a “day” person my entire life; switching circadian rhythms overnight (pun intended) was not according to plan, but that’s life sometimes and you make the most of it. 

A night shift pharmacist is responsible for the care of patients with acute health issues or chronic disease. You’ll be required to provide dispensing services, answer medication-related questions and offer counsel about medications that are appropriate in a given clinical situation. The night pharmacist also provides counseling on proper dosing instructions when necessary and dispenses. In the end I actually learned to love it (and the ED) so much that I passed up on opportunities to move to day and evening shifts. Am I crazy? Maybe. But working in the night shift has opened doors in my pharmacist training that I do not mind staying during this growth period of my life. 

Pros and Cons of Night Shift

Pros: night shift is usually a little more relaxed and you get to see people at their best (or worst) time. Patients on night shift are typically less demanding than during the day because they’re most likely asleep and also understand that it’s tough for us working through this time of night. Night shifts can be easier than days, but only if done properly and with a communicative team.

  • It’s peaceful and quiet, leaving you to focus on your work without distractions and noise. For introverted people, this shift is an anti-social heaven. 
  • You’ll become independent. Since the night staff is 1/3 of the regular staff, you’re responsible for knowing every specialized area and its workflow in case a situation or anticipation arises where you have to make a decision and handle it to the best of your ability. If you don’t, you will learn. The training is as extensive as you want it to be. In a way, you become a jack-of-all-trades. 
  • Night shift coworkers are the coolest people of all time. Generally these people are here to do their job without any political games or agendas or drama. The work culture is the ideal in this shift.

Cons: night shift can be difficult for night owls, it’s hard to get enough sleep and you may experience mood fluctuations. 

  • Most important downfall of all: health. Night shift workers are at the highest risk of developing cancer, heart disease, depression, diabetes, GERD, vitamin D deficiency, generalized weakness, etc. Watch your health especially on this shift and take the self care you need to continue your hustle.  
  • Regular businesses are closed during your shift. All the Chipotle’s, Starbucks, etc. are closed so you have to find a way to make your own food and coffee before work. If you have a day off, you have to wait until businesses open at daybreak. This is a minor adjustment in my opinion and is a matter of rescheduling, adjusting, and food prepping.
  • You will miss a lot of night social activities. You won’t be able to go out dancing, see movies in the theater or sporting events at night because you have work. Try and make time for socializing on your days off (or catch up with friends online). Nap when you can and adjust. If you’re having dinner with friends in the evening, take a quick 2-3 hour nap in the morning. 

Tips:

  • Maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise to keep up your strength. 
  • Go to your annual physical check-up. Night shift diseases tend to creep up on you over time. The only way to know you’re on your way to a bone fracture or pre-diabetes is to measure your vitamin D and HBA1C blood levels. 
  • Do what makes you happy. I don’t know how else to recommend this but pursuing your favorite hobby or being around people you love makes a major difference on your daily and overall mental psyche and attitude towards life. 
  • Stay hydrated and consistent, don’t fall into the cycle of sleeping for 16 hours a day. Keep your sleep schedule consistent, including your days off. 
  • Black out curtains – this is essential! Blackout curtains not only block out the sun but can also absorb heat, keeping your room cool during hot summers, and even some noise.
  • Invest in a soundproofing window. If you live in New York City on a busy street like me, it may be worth the investment to get a soundproof window. They cost me about $2,500 for 1 large window but in exchange, outdoor sounds have been reduced 95% and I can sleep soundly to help my patients at night.
  • Invest in noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs for night shifts. I recommend testing them out before committing as they vary greatly from person to person because of individual comfort levels. Use them as needed and train your body to sleep naturally.
  • On that note, melatonin 5mg gummies helps with falling asleep but I try to not use it unless I need to adjust circadian rhythms.

Whether night shift is a temporary phase of your career or integrated in your lifestyle, make night life worth it. Stay active, eat healthy, and drink plenty of fluids. I cannot recommend enough the importance of getting good sleep at night to combat fatigue on your night shift! Happy sleeping and night shifting! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.