Like most professionals in the healthcare field, Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs, are often required to work the night shift. That's especially true early in their careers because more experienced CNAs often get more desirable hours. While higher pay is often earned for working such shifts, staying up all night can wreak havoc on your life. Before working your first overnight shift, learn some strategies for effectively coping with this kind of schedule.
Working Night Shift as a CNA: How to Cope
Keep the following points in mind to handle working the night shift as a CNA as effectively as possible:
- Make Your Home as Dark as Possible - Trick your body into thinking it's nighttime by making your home as dark as possible during the day. This might mean investing in excellent blackout curtains, which are worth every penny. If it's already getting light out on your way home, wear sunglasses to trick yourself into thinking it's getting close to bedtime.
- Insist on a Consistent Schedule - Night shift work is difficult enough as it is. It's even worse when it's interspersed with day shifts or is otherwise inconsistent. Insist on having consistent hours that include at least a few days off in a row.
- Find a Fun Way to Kill Time - Things tend to be quieter during the night shift. You will often find yourself completely caught up with nothing to do. If no one else needs help, find a way to occupy yourself. Reading, crossword puzzles, and knitting are all great options.
- Eat Before Working - Late at night, the pickings tend to be slim when it comes to grabbing a bite. Work around this issue by eating a large meal before going on the clock.
- Wear a Digital Watch - Invest in a good digital watch with a bright display. That way, you can always just glance at your wrist to see what time it is. The display's brightness will also help keep you alert and aware.
- Don't Go Right to Bed After Work - Tired though you may be, resist the temptation to go to sleep immediately after work. You wouldn't do that after a day shift, so make a point of taking care of things around the house, running errands, and otherwise keeping yourself busy for at least a few hours prior to bedtime.
- Take Care of Yourself - All CNAs should take care of themselves to deliver the best care possible, but it's even more important for night shift workers who are more susceptible to fatigue. Eat a healthy diet, get at least a little exercise every day, and get plenty of sleep to be the best CNA you can be.
- Keep Healthcare Appointments - Since you're likely to sleep most of the day, you may be tempted to put doctor and dentist appointments on the back burner. Don't let that happen. Strategically schedule such appointments for days when you are typically off work, or find doctors and dentists who offer weekend or late evening appointments.
Although you may dread the idea of working all night, many CNAs come to prefer it for the higher pay and less hectic shifts. Even if you never quite get used to it, you won't have to work the night shift forever. In the meantime, use the strategies highlighted above to ensure a smooth, easy time.