How Do You Survive Night Shift in Residency? 5 Practical Tips

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A career as a doctor involves years of practical training and studying.

It doesn’t end after earning your Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. You must also finish a medical residency training.

Becoming a resident physician gives a scary feeling to many. Residency brings emotional stress, fatigue, and self-doubt, striking the ability to care for their patients and oneself.

But it’ll be an excellent time of hands-on learning.

Your first night-shift duty as a resident may seem overwhelming. Fear not! Below are five tips to weather your first night on duty.

5 Tips to Surviving Your First Night Shift in Residency

Co-operate with the Pharmacists and Nurses

Pharmacists implement strategies to figure out medication-related problems. So, if a pharmacist asks if you are confident and sure about a medication order, such as lisinopril, for a patient with high blood pressure, don’t take it personally.

On the contrary, ask for guidance. A pharmacist can verify prescriptions, inform you about the possible effects, and give more important details.

According to research, new physicians are more likely to make mistakes when they have extended shifts or long work weeks. Medication errors are the most common patient safety blunder.

You don’t want medical malpractice on your first night duty, right? So, don’t push the pharmacists away. Bring them closer.

In the same way, listening to the nurses will be the lifeline during your residency. They’re at patients’ bedsides substantially more than the primary physician. This significant exposure gives them a head start in monitoring patient changes over time.

Additionally, constant patient interaction allows the nurses to acquire vital information about their health and how well they react to treatment.

They will also save you from committing medication errors due to burnout, fatigue, or being new to the hospital floor. Veteran nurses will guide you to ensure you don’t do something you’ll regret later.

Learn more about medical abbreviations here.

Look for Ways to Manage Fatigue

Sleep deprivation and fatigue always come with night shifts. The main challenge of this work schedule is that it pushes you to sleep against the clock. You must lock horns with your body’s natural rhythms to stay awake. Then, you must try to sleep when your body expects to be alert.

As a result, your physical health may suffer. It can make you more likely to get sick and make it challenging to stay focused on the job, putting you and your patients in danger.

Because of these, finding ways to manage fatigue on your night-shift duty is crucial. Consider the following:

  • Take about 90 minutes of nap before reporting for a night shift. Doing so will make you more sharp and quick on the job.
  • Eat healthy, small snacks throughout your duty. It will help keep your energy levels elevated.
  • Use caffeine wisely.
  • Keep moving. Stretch or walk around when you have downtime.
  • Converse with your colleagues to prevent dozing off.
  • Take a mental break. Get some fresh air to reinvigorate your mind and body.

Get Close to Your Senior Residents

Your senior residents are there to help you if you think something doesn’t look right but are unsure why. They are one of your first points of contact during these situations.

Don’t be embarrassed about asking your senior resident questions. Nobody is perfect, and no one is assuming you know everything. Doubting your decisions and abilities is common in residency.

But you can address it by discussing patient cases with senior residents, such as how it can be approached differently. A senior resident has extensive experience and knowledge and can often answer questions that are approachable and easy to digest. It’s always better to ask than faking it until you make it.

Dress Comfortably

In the middle of the night, hospitals tend to be the coldest. So, bring whatever you need to stay warm and comfortable. For example, when you’re shivering in your scrubs, wear hoodies. Just make sure that it’s allowed in your hospital.

Additionally, after walking and standing for about 12 hours, you might feel aching and swelling in your legs. The solution? Compression socks. It keeps swelling down by averting fluid from building up in your lower leg.

Compression socks apply pressure to your ankles and calves, helping your blood vessels do what they should. Moreover, wear supportive shoes with thermal soles. They will help you move quickly as much as possible without any pain.

Write Legibly

Accurate and readable charting and documentation are essential in your job. Through charting, you write down essential information for the whole healthcare team. It describes all patient care components, including procedures performed, services provided, and medications administered.

Because of this, you should take time to write concisely and accurately before moving on to the next patient. Don’t leave other doctors or nurses to decipher what you wrote. It’ll be a hassle and take a lot of their precious time. So, write clearly.

Final Words!

Your residency will be a time of learning to be an efficient team member, finding work-life balance, and working many night shifts. It might be a lot, but you’re not alone. Learn from this guide and get help when you need it most. You got this!

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