Ideal Pre-Night Shift Routine

I've now had two years to badly prepare myself for night shifts. I have done it lots of different ways rightly and wrongly, but this is the way that works best for me!

On my days off I try to bulk cook some food and portion it up so I always have a food option for me. I currently do not have much money and picking up unplanned snacks can really break the bank. I also try to get up on laundry, but I only wash laundry at night as we have an economy 7 meter which means I pay less for electric overnight. This makes it difficult as I do not spend a whole day doing laundry... It is a constant slog!

I get up nice and early normally anyway, but definitely on night shifts when I am aiming for an afternoon nap. I get up, get dressed (this is so, so important to set yourself in the mood for a productive day!) and have breakfast. Then I will wash up and make sure the house is in order.

Time to write a to do list! My most productive days are where I write lists that have small, achievable goals in them. I aim to do a bit of housework as any major housework like laundry and food prep is unlikely to happen when I am on shifts. Sometimes I have the energy to get lots done, but this is never definite as it depends on the luck of the night before. So I'll have a good clean and then I will settle down and do any work that I need to do, or I will just write up some notes on differential diagnoses that I feel weak on. If I really do not have anything to do I might combine the gym and some food shopping into my morning.

Lunchtime entails some serious multitasking. I try to have an early lunch which is not too big (difficult for me as I really love food) but I will also batch cook dinner (which I eat before shift, not during), whilst also sorting snacks for shift. For an easy dinner I might make spaghetti bolognese, chilli, lasagne or curry. My snacks entail fruit and vegetables, and usually some form of cake! This usually takes quite a while, but I try to chop everything then leave it to cook whilst I eat lunch.

Downtime! I head up to bed and get changed into stuff to sleep in. I set an alarm for 4pm and one for 4.30pm so I still have time to wake up and sort myself out when I do get up. I set two alarms because if I am still very much asleep, I will sleep to the later alarm. If I wake up early and feel bright and breezy then I will get up when I do. I always end up falling asleep, it does take practice and persistence. Even if you do not fall asleep, just laying and resting is important (and after this I normally switch off and fall asleep anyway). This obviously varies depending on my shift time and the distance I have to travel. For my previous placements I lived 2 hours away and I had to get up at 3pm to ensure I had time to get ready and leave. I am a lot luckier now so I do have more time for things... I am very grateful for my current placement position!

I am up by now! I will make sure my bag is packed, water bottle full and my uniform is out. I will chill out for a bit, heat up my dinner or bake it if it needs it. Then I will eat dinner and wash up. I will also make sure I have portioned my dinners up. Some go in the fridge but most go in the freezer. I normally have at least four different meals in the freezer as I like variety. I usually have a bit of time to kill so I will faff around for a while and then get changed into my uniform. I wash my face, brush my teeth and put some mascara on, and then I am ready to go!

Time to leave for my shift! I always aim to get to my shift with 15 to 30 minutes to spare so I can sit in the mess room, make a coffee (in a thermos-cup so I can take it in the truck with me) and go through any notes or my PAD. I like to see what I need to get signed off and I will tell my mentor certain things I would like to do so he is aware before we start, then if the opportunity comes up he will offer it up to me if it is appropriate. By discussing this beforehand it makes the process a lot smoother. It is nice to have a good chat with the day crews coming back and the night crews about to start. It is also helpful to get there early in case your crew takes over from a day crew early, as if a Category 1 call comes out then they may jump on it straight away. If you are there it means you can go on it and you do not miss some or all of your shift with your mentor.

Obviously not every pre-night shift goes this smoothly, but this is the goal! Everyone copes with nights differently so try a whole range of ways and then stick to the one that works for you. Remember that whilst you are still studying, it is really hard to juggle everything. If things do not go perfectly then do not beat yourself up about it! Just keep trying and remember that life gets easier as you get better and it gets even better when you qualify! If you have any suggestions on how to improve the pre-night shift routine, send me a message on instagram or drop your comments below!


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