By Lucy Osborn MACN (ENL)
This column, The Scrubs that Fit, is all about the highs and lows of being a junior nurse, from the perspective of an ACN Emerging Nurse Leader. The aim of these blog posts is to help ease the transition from university to grad years and beyond. Find Lucy on ACN’s neo and on Instagram @aussie_nurses.
This article outlines my suggestions for those days when you just feel ‘bleh’. Everybody has these days, they are completely normal. To help you manage them, my latest article in the Scrubs That Fit column highlights how I deal with six common problems we as nurses encounter during our busy professional lives.
- Irregular Routines
As nurses we work 24 hours around the clock to service the needs of our patients. This means our body clock is often waaaay out of whack. It is always hard to establish a routine during shiftwork, especially when you switch between early, late and night shifts. When I was on eight hour shifts I found it helpful to make a routine for each type of shift along the lines of the following:
Early’s: Get up and work, after work I would gym, grocery shop, studying briefly, cook dinner, relax and sleep.
Late’s: Usually make some time to have brunch with friends, gym and then work.
Night’s: Sleep, eat, sleep, eat. With night shifts I mainly tried to listen to my body and prioritise sleep and eating well over going to the gym and studying.
- Long shifts, long breaks
Looking at the routines above, I should be one healthy lady, but realistically it takes a lot of time and discipline to get into these routines. I now do 12 hour shifts and I find it’s harder to get into a working routine when they are such long days at work and more days off in a row. Going to the gym is my weakest link which is terrible because I think exercise makes a huge difference to my own wellbeing. It is trial and error with what routine works best for me at the moment. I exercise on my days off and meal prep the days before lots of shifts. It’s all about trying to find the work/life balance.
- Mental fatigue
Becoming mentally exhausted from emotionally challenging patients, acuity and workload is a key challenge for nurses. It is hard to give this much of ourselves to every patient we meet, especially when the care is not reciprocated or appreciated. Within my current departments, I can talk to my in-charge nurses and ask for a different allocation if I am not coping, but I also understand that this isn’t an option for a lot of nurses. You can also consider some time away and seek assistance from any of the excellent resources found here.
- Physical exhaustion
Sometimes my work/ life balance gets out of whack. Over the years I found it fall out both ways, picking up to many shifts and staying late verses going out with friends and going away in every spare moment. Physical exhaustion can come from exercise, activities and work. Listen to your body, if you are tired… rest.
- Poor health
Nurses spend so much time looking after the health of others that it is easy to lose focus on our own wellbeing. I often feel under the weather, especially if I haven’t been following a healthy diet or catch an illness from one of my patient. My advice is that if you are feeling sick, stay at home to protect the health of your colleagues and patients.
Our profession work long and hard hours with little opportunities for time away. I am working on recognising if there are any triggers that make me ‘need’ a break and one big factor I’ve noticed is when I’m homesick. I’ve lived interstate from my family for over six years but I always love to see them. I have two gorgeous nephews and a beautiful niece, who are all young and growing too quickly, so I always try and get home to visit them. My advice to manage work fatigue is to make sure you listen when your body and mind need a break and take annual leave accordingly. I’ve meet many nurses over the years that have banked up months of annual leave and long service leave, I find I get fatigued if I don’t take my leave annually at least.
I hope my examples of how I manage these common challenges help other nurses and make getting out of bed on those ‘bleh’ days that little bit easier.