As a travel nurse, there are times you may be asked to take on a double shift to meet staffing needs and/or shortages. In some cases, you may volunteer for double shifts to earn more money.
While often lucrative, those long shifts can be grueling, and depending on your age and your health may have long-lasting effects on your body.
“Don’t do a double too often,” advises BSN Candace Finch on Scrubsmag.com. “You can be a team player, but learn to say no. We all love the extra cash, but doing too many doubles can cause burnout … and an extra shift or two can put a strain on your personal life. Listen to your body — it will tell you when you’re doing too much.”
That said, here are some suggestions for de-stressing and recovering after a challenging double shift.
- Take in plenty of water. When you’re busy working, you’re at greater risk of dehydration because you’re less apt to think about your own thirst. Drinking H20 lubricates joints, aids digestion, delivers oxygen, minerals and nutrients throughout the body, cushions the brain and spinal cord, improves skin, regulates body temperature, flushes body waste, maintains blood pressure, opens airways and helps prevent kidney damage.
- Eat healthy. Resist the urge to pick up fast food or junk food on your way home, whether you make that happen through pre-planned crockpot meals or nutritious take-out deli food. “Your tired body will crave an easily digestible and quick high, but with that high comes a gnarly crash,” advises an article on NBC.com.
- Stop drinking caffeine six hours before the end of your shift so it won’t interfere with your sleep afterward.
- Indulge in a warm, soothing bath or shower. “Your skin releases endorphins in response to the soothing warm water the same way endorphins are released when you feel the sun on your skin,” notes dermatologist Dr. Bobby Buka on Healthline.com.
- Consciously detach from workplace concerns. That may require meditation, prayer and/or exercise during which you deliberately shed the emotional cares of the day. “Research has shown common associations between a failure to psychologically disconnect from work and emotional exhaustion, dissatisfaction and poor sleep quality,” notes one American Medical Association study.
- Interact with the outdoors. “Nature is one of our most underutilized self-soothers, both physiological and psychologically," notes neuroscientist Leigh Winters on NBCnews.com.
- Get restorative sleep. The ideal remedy is seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep after a double shift, but you may need to make a catch-up plan. “If you missed 10 hours of sleep over the course of a week, add three to four extra sleep hours on the weekend and an extra hour or two per night the following week until you have repaid the debt fully,” offers one Harvard Medical School article.
- Plan a life-affirming activity other than sleep. Medical residents frequently recover from long shifts through activities that “reconnect with their identities, roles and relationships that exist outside of the hospital,” according to the AMA report.
- Avoid high-stress activities. "If you pulled an all-nighter or have an enormous sleep debt, think twice about making any big decisions or engaging in high-level thought processes, like analyzing, evaluating and planning," advises Winters. “Refine your to-do list, push off non-priority tasks until tomorrow and allow yourself an easier day.”