Anyone who works outside of a steady 9 to 5 schedule is bound to have some noticeable effects on their health and overall wellbeing. However, working night shifts, extended shifts, or fluctuating schedules can make it hard to eat healthy, get enough sleep, and have quality time with your family.
You know from your time in residency that when you work irregular schedules, it can feel more difficult to connect with individuals who work during the week and during the day. If you’re heading out the door while your loved ones are going to bed, consider and be aware of the following effects and solutions.
Effects on your physical health
If you work nights, you’re at a higher risk of developing certain cancers, as well as heart and metabolic problems, ulcers, and gastrointestinal issues. In fact, general stress and feelings of disconnectedness may arise very soon after you begin working this shift.
To actively address these effects, consider how you can incorporate healthy rhythms into your irregular schedule. Team up with colleagues on a similar shift schedule to head to a 24-hour gym for exercise. Check in with fellow night-shift staff regarding personal wellness, discuss healthy routines, and encourage each other through this particular stretch of night shifts.
Effects on your mental health
It’s believed the disruption in your circadian rhythm is the trigger that causes depression and mood disorders when you work an irregular schedule. It may feel like you’re living a completely different life than your family, but there are ways to alleviate some of your symptoms.
It’s important to maintain some sort of schedule that works best for your particular situation. Carve out time to sleep every day and make it a priority. Let family know about this marked difference in your routine, but ask them to watch out for your overall well-being and mental health. In the same way, care for coworkers on a similar schedule by looking for changes in mood, appetite, habits and enjoyment of their job.
Understanding the risks and what you can do
Being overworked and sleep-deprived can lead to poor performance and safety issues at work.
Let’s face it: you have to bring your A game 100 percent of the time. Not only do you need to think about how your performance affects your job – it may be the difference between life and death for your patients.
Doing your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle doesn’t just involve sleep. You need fuel for your body. It’s tempting to grab the bag of chips or heat up a Hot Pocket after work, but you need nutrients to sustain you through this phase of your career.
Eat healthy meals
Instead of eating pizza or a burger in your car on the way home – we know, we’ve all been there after a grueling and long shift – pull out a perfectly proportioned meal with protein and vegetables. Make this easy on yourself by preparing several pre-portioned, tasty (but healthy) meals that are ready to grab and go. Pack protein-rich snacks to stay fueled throughout the day. Overall, aim to have your food choices give you energy and help you lead a more productive life. With better meals, your sleep will be more satisfying, your workouts will be easier on your body, and you’ll be more likely to perform better professionally.
We’ve talked briefly on maintaining a steady routine of physical activity outside of your work, but how can you stay active during your shift? Take the stairs, walk the long way around the halls and take a focused breath every hour, even if it’s just a few seconds of purposeful breathing. Consider challenging your coworkers to a FitBit or Apple watch fitness goal to stay motivated through the day (or night) and maintain a healthy rhythm.
Follow a schedule
Your schedule might not be what “normal” people are accustomed to, but your work is important as a medical provider, and your shift is critical to the care of patients. Plan out every hour of your day to maintain a routine and to not be tempted to swing back and forth between too many daytime and nighttime activities (especially if you’re only working one shift type). Make sure to include enough sleep, but not too much. The better your schedule, the more confident you’ll feel as you do your work!
Consider incorporating these suggestions into your routine to help your body and mind grow accustomed to your irregular schedule. In the end, your decision to care for yourself will positively serve your patients and your group.
Shift Admin can help you create a better-optimized, fully-staffed provider schedule in half the time – request a demo to see how easy it is to get started.