One of the hardest things about being a healthcare provider for many is that they have to work long hours and they often have to work overnight. After all, people don’t stop getting sick just because everyone else is sleeping, and accidents can happen any time.
Working the nightshift can quickly lead to burnout for many nurses, and that can cause them to call out sick more often or to quit in search of jobs with more daytime hours. Understanding why the nightshift leads to burnout and then taking the appropriate steps so that you don’t have to repeat your medical recruiting over and over.
Why the Nightshift Leads to Burnout
The primary reason why it’s so hard for most people to work the night shift is that our bodies have an innate circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm tells us when it’s time to be awake and it’s time to sleep, and it is largely connected to the light cycle. Therefore, we tend to feel alert during the day and sleepy at night (or when it is overcast and grey). We can also become less alert, have a more depressed mood, and our body temperature can change.
Typically, being awake and working during the night goes against the body’s circadian rhythm. Working at night makes it harder to regulate body processes, to think clearly, and to maintain a positive and stable mood. Studies have also shown that those who work the night shift are at increased health risk over time, including an increased risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, sleep issues, metabolic disorders, and more. Working the night shift has also been shown to increase the risk of obesity and depression.
Alleviating the Effects of the Night Shift
Healthcare facilities cannot stop treating patients in the evening. Facilities like hospice providers, emergency departments, and hospitals must be available 24 hours a day, especially.
However, there are steps that both nurses and their employers can take to ensure that they do not burn out from working the night shift.
To start, you should offer your nurses a slow transition to the night shift. You need to give them plenty of time to change their sleep habits so that their circadian rhythm can shift. Then their bodies will naturally be more alert in the evenings and more sleepy during the day, minimizing their risk of health issues and mood changes. Work closely with each nurse to create the transition schedule, and make adjustments as needed along the way. The goal shouldn’t be to get there as fast as possible but to make sure that you’re successful when you do get there.
Once your nurses are on the night schedule, do not rotate their shifts. They should remain on night shifts to keep their circadian rhythms stable. Shifting between night and day will make it hard for them to have a steady and sleep and wake schedule, and that will make it very hard for them to be alert and competent when they are on the job. That’s bad for your nurses and bad for your patients. You set everyone up for failure when you rotate shifts.
Even when nurses are established on the night shift, there may still be times that your nurses are tired or are having a hard time concentrating because their bodies are still responding to it being night time. You should provide dark and quiet place where nurses can rest when there is down time or they have a break. Even a quick rest can help them rejuvenate so they are alert and ready to finish their shift.
Finally, you should leave plenty of time in your nurses’ weekly schedules so that they can rest and exercise to take care of their overall health. Nurses need to eat well, get plenty of sleep, and regular exercise in order to manage working the night shift better to maintain their health and their ability to stay focused and energized while they are tending to patients.
By taking these steps, you can minimize the negative effects of the night shift and head off any nursing shortages. You will show your nurses that you care about their health and well-being, and you will make the shift more manageable, which will stop them from quitting and looking for other jobs.
If you do have a shortage, you can contact One Stop Recruiting and Medical Billing to help you find the best nursing candidates. Our medical recruiters maintain a large pool of pre-screened, qualified candidates that we are ready to match to your needs. We are a top medical staffing agency, and we work with all types of health professionals and agencies for all types of contracts. Contact us today to talk with one of our medical recruiters and start your search!