Working the night shift can be a challenge for any healthcare worker— but throw in raising kids on top of sleep deprivation and you might start to wonder if surviving the dreaded night shift is even possible as a parent.
For most healthcare professionals, working the night shift is not optional, but a required part of the job. It might seem daunting at first, but here are a few tips to make working the night shift work with a family.
BE A LITTLE SELFISH
The night shift affects your health in many different ways, from increasing fatigue, to stressing your mood, to impairing your cognitive performance. When you’re a parent working nights, it’s more important than ever to be as selfish as possible.
What do we mean by that? We mean it’s important to do everything you can to prioritize your own self-care in order to combat the negative effects of working nights.
Invest in quality scrubs that are going to keep you comfortable even when you’re exhausted. Say “no” to going out on your day off so you can catch up on your sleep. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for not playing with your kids when you desperately need a nap. Pay the extra money for the pre-prepared snacks that will keep you fueled in a healthy way instead of reaching for the sugary junk at 2 a.m. Shelve any other responsibilities and goals for the time being.
Be selfish in your self-care because you don’t just have your patients depending on you—you have your children to think about too. In many cases, a night shift schedule is not a permanent one and it’s important to keep that in mind as you work. Your focus right now might be a little more selfish than it will be down the road and that is 100% OK for right now.
One of the hardest parts about working night shift with kids is adjusting to feeling like you are living a different life than the rest of the world. From school parties you will miss to family get-togethers you sleep through, it can feel isolating. To get through, it might help you to keep in mind all of the benefits of the night shift: maybe the hours work better for your family life at the moment or maybe the shift differential is paying down your student debt faster. Whatever your reason for working the night shift is right now, focusing on your “why” can help you see the positive in your current night shift situation.
Sometime around 3 AM, your body’s natural circadian rhythm will kick in, your melatonin levels will rise, and one unexpected side effect of fatigue is going to set in: you will be freezing. It may sound like a small thing, but when you’re fighting to stay awake, you have patients to treat, and you want to focus, those midnight shivers can start to take a toll.
One easy solution? Dress in layers. Topping your scrubs with a technology-backed professional medical lab coat means that you get the warmth and comfort when you need it and moisture-wicking temperature control when you’re back on your feet and feeling the heat. You can also bring along your lab coat to work and don it when your body temperature starts to drop. And as a bonus feature, Medelita’s lab coats feature a lot of hidden pockets so you can keep your snacks handy when the late-night munchies kick in too. Shhhh, we won’t tell….
HIRE A BABYSITTER
If you remember one piece of advice about how to work a night shift with families, let it be this: hire a sitter so you can sleep. Seriously. You don’t want to fall prey to the trap of thinking that night shift means you can somehow pull of being a superhuman who never sleeps. You can work all night and catch a few zzz’s while the kids nap, right? Wrong.
Ask any night-shifter who has kids and they will assure you that mixing kids and attempting to sleep during the day is a recipe for disaster. You might be able to get away with it if you have school-aged children who are gone during the day, but if you have young kids at home, you will need some kind of childcare arrangement that will let you get consistent sleep.
There may not be a secret to successfully working the night shift with a family, but it’s no secret that preparing with products to get you through the night, whether that’s scrubs that keep you comfortable or a lab coat with hidden snack pockets, investing in yourself to stay healthy, and adequately planning for childcare to get the rest you need will help you make it through life on the night shift.