November 23, 2020

Shifting to Work

It’s 1800 hours, and you are sitting down to dinner with your family. Although you are working tonight, you didn’t nap at all, and ended up making dinner and doing errands to pass the time in the day. This isn’t your first shift in this area, and some of the shifts you have had in this setting have gone really well, but that doesn’t change how your gut feels- nervous. You are asked how many patients you have tonight, but you don’t really want to chat about work with your family, or anything, really.

Coping with the transitional period between student and professional can be overwhelming. Many nurses find that the hours leading up to a shift are difficult emotionally as well as physically, with racing or distracted thoughts, and even some GI symptoms. This can be true for seasoned nurses as well as relatively new ones, as anticipating a stressful environment unsurprisingly results in stress. Having a rough shift earlier in your rotation can increase these feelings, as it’s difficult not to imagine things going badly. While we can’t guarantee every shift will result in transcendent realizations about the human condition, we believe the tips below can help you get from 1730 until your shift starts.

  • Try to set limits on how much you accomplish before you have to go to work- this means that you might do your meal prep for a couple shifts, but maybe skip scrubbing all the baseboard in your house as well as laundering every piece of linen you own.
  • Communicate honestly with your family or those in your home that you would like to skip work talk before your shift and remind them (AGAIN) that you will need to sleep tomorrow!
  • Consider trying a non-nursing podcast on your way to work, or make a playlist for the trip that is soothing and still energizing (try Lord Huron’s Strange Trails album). 
  • Make your coffee or tea choice special and distinct for work, or even particularly for one type of shifts- if your place of work has a café, you can treat yourself to a soothing 5 o’clock beverage, like a decaf tea or steamer to get you through the last few hours. Be mindful that caffeine can be a tough thing to balance out, as chugging your double shot coffee before work won’t necessarily help with any nervousness!
  • It may seem strange, but parking a little farther away (still in a safe area), and taking the stairs can give you a chance to raise your heart rate and clear your mind before work. Walking after your shift can also allow you to reflect on your experiences so as to reduce how much you have to dump on your housemates or significant other. 

Kathryn Corneau, RN BscN, MN (Candidate)

Medical-Surgical Services and Surgical Step-Down Unit                                                                                      Royal Inland Hospital, Interior Health Authority, British Columbia

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Nursing The Future™ acknowledges that nurses across this country live, work and play on the lands of our Indigenous Ancestors and we join our members in expressing respectful gratitude for this privilege.
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