After a busy 12 hour night shift, I’m heading home. I had 2 hours of sleep during my break, but obviously that wasn’t enough. I live 30 minutes away from the hospital, by car. As I’m driving on the highway, I feel my eyes closing.
Frightened, I head for the next exit. I want to go to the right hand lane, to leave the highway. I thought I checked my blind spot, but as I reach for the right lane, I hear a loud honk that’s telling me I may have not done it properly…
Ouff…that was a close one!
And I know you can relate.
Everywhere we go we hear: “don’t drink and drive” and “don’t text and drive.” But what about “don’t sleep and drive?”
I know at least 4 nurses who’ve had car accidents after a busy night shift. In fact, close to 20 percent of all serious car crash injuries in the general population are associated with driver sleepiness, independent of alcohol effects*. And I’m sure night workers are a big part of that 20%.
Let’s be honest here for a minute. At our 3rd night shift, we know our concentration level is not optimal. Our judgement can also be altered and this can have a lot of repercussions. I’m not only talking about driving back home. I’m talking about the decisions we make every minute during this shift, when taking care of those patients.
Depending on where you work, most of the time, patients sleep during the night. But from time to time, you may have a patient turning sour at 2 AM and be very limited in your resources. You have to think and act right…Think and act fast too.
So we need, as much as possible, all our faculties when working night. The same applies when working days, but I personally find it harder when I’m working the night shift to stay a 100%.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found any magical potion yet, to keep us up all night and sharp during our night shifts… but if you have…please leave it down in the comment section! If not, here are a few tips and tricks I found that have made a difference to stop falling asleep while driving or finding alternative solutions.
- Have a good nap BEFORE heading to work. You’ll have greater awareness and will feel less tired at the end of your shift. So this tip helps both during and after your shift. It may not be the right time to have a big party before work. And I understand that means sacrifices for some of us. We too deserve a social life, but you know yourself better than anyone. If you know going out before your shift usually results in a catastrophe at work… don’t do it. Nurses have an obligation to their patients, to be as much fit to take care of them. If you care for that license, beware!
- I know it may sound weird to you, but in a 5 years career, I’ve never drank coffee to keep me awake. NEVER. Reason why? Let’s just say that coffee doesn’t suit me very well. So what do I fuel on for my night shifts? FRUITS! Not very common, right? I got this advice from my 1st nursing job preceptor (Thanks Melanie!!!) and since then, I’ve always applied it. And so far, in 5 years, it has worked amazingly. I’ve never fallen asleep while at work… But while driving…that’s something else, so I know my limit…Most of the time, I’ll take the metro to go back home. Try my fruit trick if you’re like me and don’t want to resort to coffee.
- Some food can make you more groggy and drowsy: high fat meal (that we are guilty of eating collectively at night at work), and sugary snacks which can give us a sugar rush at first, but end up in a sugar crash…and guess what… the crash most often happen on your way back home….Instead, pack your lunch before work…you’ll save a lot of money too!
- Instead of driving back home, take the bus or the metro…you can *comfortably* fall asleep, and the worst you get is to be awaken by a stranger because you missed your stop. Trust me, it’s way better than ending up in ER because of a motor vehicle collision…
- Carpool with other nurses! Being in a car with other folks and making conversation will help you guys reach destination more safely. Plus your sharing economy by your collaborative consumption!
Do you struggle to go back home after your night shifts? What has helped you not to fall asleep while driving? Do share with us!!