Nurses don’t necessarily follow the same 9-5 work schedule as a lot of the working population. Instead, they follow ever-changing work schedules that vary from morning, afternoon, and night shifts. Therefore, every day does not look the same for a nurse as each day brings a new set of challenges and opportunities.

Regardless of which shift you’ve been assigned to, here is how to prepare yourself, including some handy tips and words of wisdom from Nurse Molly.

Preparation is key

Regardless of the time of your shift, preparation is the key to success. Besides being organised, many nurses need to prepare mentally before a shift. Nurses deal with a wide range of things within their busy shifts, typically unexpected things too! In some cases, nurses come across difficult circumstances and confronting situations that might stay heavily on their minds. Therefore, mentally preparing is essential. One way in which nurses can ready themselves for a long shift ahead is to reflect on the reasons they began studying nursing to begin with. Commonly, it’s because of a passion to help people and make a difference. Having this reminder in the back of their mind allows a sense of gratitude and motivation when preparing for an upcoming shift.

Another way nurses prepare for a shift is to ensure they are fuelled and ready to go. Depending on the time of day, this might mean a big, nutritious breakfast, lunch or dinner. Depending on the type of shift ahead, some nurses go hours between breaks. Therefore, eating a proper meal before the shift starts is a good way to prepare for the unexpected.  To learn more about foods to fuel your body, click here to read Biz Care blog.

As the shift start time grows closer, many nurses arrive at their workplace early to change into their scrubs. Some hospitals implement rules to ensure the scrubs never leave the hospital for cleanliness and bacterial reasons. So, changing before the shift is part of many nurses’ routines.

Shift routines

Clean, sanitise and repeat! When starting a shift, nurses must ensure they are clean and germ-free before encountering patients. This is to minimise the risks of infection and contamination.

“As a nurse we follow quite a structured day, and it is usually the same on most wards,” says Molly. After scrubbing up and cleaning, a handover session begins. The nurse who is finishing their shift will brief their replacement of the previous shift. This involves sharing updates and progress points on patients, including care they have received and care they require. Medications requirements for patients is another important part of a handover. Ineffective handovers can lead to adverse events, delays in care and complications. Time taken to provide an effective handover can lead to timely, quality care and good patient outcomes. Therefore, it is a crucial part of a nurse’s day.

Nurse’s shifts can range from 8-12 hours, and in some cases, even longer! As a result, depending on the length of the shift, the duties will vary. Many factors alter the nature of a shift, such as the ward, the type of nurse, the hospital set up, staff on duty etc. With a fast-paced job like this, no shift is the same as the one before – especially with new patients coming and going frequently.

As nurses work on a rostered schedule, they sometimes know in advance which area they will be working in. However, in the current climate, nurses must expect the unexpected. Staff numbers are often lower than optimal; therefore, nurses are often doing more than one job at once.

Each patient has different needs and will require different levels of care. Often nurses will be allocated to a small number of patients to monitor throughout their shift.
Some everyday tasks include:

  • Checking vitals
  • Ensuring the patient is fed and hydrated
  • Helping patients shower
  • Providing medication
  • Updating patient notes and progress
  • Ensuring the patient is making progress in their recovery

“I use a shift planner which allows me to visualise what needs to be done and when,” says Molly. “As always, the routine is usually disjointed somewhere along the way – but the planner helps us stay on track.”

Towards the end of a shift, a new nurse will arrive for a handover. As patient care has a 24 requirement, nurses never stop. Instead, they flow through to ensure all bases are covered. However, in some cases, if no new nurse is arriving, nurses are required to take on a double shift or stay back longer than anticipated. Predictability for this is low, meaning nurses are always prepared for anything that comes their way therefore preparing for a potential double shift is a great way to set up for success.

Post shift

After a long shift, it’s important for nurses to replenish and refuel – even if they are going home to bed. Nurses can be on their feet for 10-hours at a time; therefore, doing what they can to rest their body is essential to bouncing back ready for their next working day. A large amount of rest is required following a shift – ideally, a full night or days sleep.

“To unwind I always play some of my favourite music on the way home – usually Taylor Swift! When I’m home I like to try and spend time with family, have a cup of tea and watch some tv before having a shower and going to sleep,” says Molly.

Getting adequate rest between shifts is a must, as nurses are required to be flexible with their hours. This means weekend and public holiday work are never off the table!

Working as a nurse is an extremely demanding job, with changing shift times and unpredictable patients, it’s important to expect the unexpected. Biz Care scrubs allow nurses to face anything their workday throws at them