We all need to tackle working nights in the hospital at some point. Whilst there is no universal way to approach working nights there are some handy hints that will make them a bit easier.
The biggest thing to remember however is that everyone is different and you will need to find your own approach!
So in no particular order, here are some things you may like to try.
- The night before you actually start working nights, try to stay up later so that you body clock begins to tune in.
- Make sure you do actually sleep the day before you start working.
- Your sleeping environment should be quiet, dark and cool (avoid trying to sleep in front of the TV!).
- If you do use a sedative, make sure you have enough sleep to be alert before starting work again.
- After your night, get home as quickly (and safely) as possible and head straight to bed. It's not unreasonable to catch a cab home following a busy night.
- It is a good idea to try and have a short nap about 2-3 hours before you start working.
- Caffeine is good in small amounts. Try not to overdo the coffee or energy drinks while you are working.
- During your night it is good to take breaks and ensure you do have small snacks.
- Take a nap when you can overnight but try and keep these short. It is always good to have a wristwatch with an alarm handy.
- If you are going to nap, ensure you tell the nurses where you intend to sleep in case they need to find you urgently! It often pays to try and find a place to sleep nearby the ward / wards you are covering.
- Make sure you remember to order your RMO meal from your cafeteria for your nights!
- You need time to recover after your nights irrespective of how many you do! Try not to have any big plans immediately after you complete a set of nights.
- A good tactic after your last night is to get home, sleep for 4-5 hours and then try to stay awake until your usual bedtime. It sometimes pays to use a sedative on your first night of 'normal' sleep.
- Sensible shoes and clothing are a must on nights!
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the views of the author. They are only individual opinions in the experience of one resident medical officer and should not be taken as ‘fact’. Scrubs accepts no responsibility for any individual resident medical officer’s actions, comments or performance on night duty in hospital.
Some useful resources
Student BMJ - A simple article published in Student BMJ.
Working the night shift - preparation, survival and recovery