Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes: A Novel Night Shift Experience

While working as an Emergency Room physician and hospitalist in Eastern Ontario, Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes is also achieving success as a novelist. Her latest medical thriller, Graveyard Shift, is set on a very eerie night shift in a fictional Montreal hospital. Here, this modern Renaissance woman talks about her own night shift experiences, the pressing problem of violence within hospitals, and how she balances resuscitation, writing and rotating shift work.

What was your inspiration for Graveyard Shift? 

There was a crazy case at one of the hospitals I worked at. In the end, a police officer came and took care of it and we avoided what could have been a disaster. But, when I thought about what could have happened if he hadn’t done that, I knew it was my next book. I was already writing a book set on an airplane, but I wanted the next book to be about this domino effect where everything goes wrong, one thing after another, all set up in the beginning. The idea at its core was from a real case.

Often the Emergency Room doctor is the only physician in the entire hospital [at night]. Honestly, I try not to think about it because it would be paralyzing.

I appreciated how you used details about night shift to create obstacles for your characters. How do those same obstacles affect your real life work as a physician on night shift?

It’s a given that you are almost all by yourself with almost no resources on night shift. Everybody’s tired and you’re doing the best you can. For example, I work at a small hospital with no x-rays at night. The only labs we run at night are the ones nurses can run in the Emergency, so just basic things like CBC, electrolytes, INR, trops, calcium. That’s it. You’re not going to get anything else. So our hands are pretty tied. 

That’s why when people come in and say, “Well, I just wanted to come in now because it’s a shorter wait,” they don’t understand that we just can’t handle things the way that we do during the daytime. 

At one point, the book’s protagonist realizes that she is the only physician available and the responsibility feels crushing. Is that a feeling you can relate to when you work night shift?

Of course. Often the Emergency Room doctor is the only physician in the entire hospital [at night]. Honestly, I try not to think about it because it would be paralyzing. At one hospital where I worked, we were being called to deliveries as well, so we were covering Obstetrics, ICU, the Emergency Department, and anyone who happened to code in the parking lot. It just wasn’t physically possible and it was dangerous for us to be trying to cover that much. 

Photo Credit: Ladouceur PHOTO

A lot of frontline healthcare workers are hit and kicked and we don’t talk about it because we try to be patient-centred and very understanding.

Your book addresses the issues of violence within hospitals. How do you think violence on night shift affects staff? And how do you address it as a physician?

I try to be very proactive about potential violence within the hospital, the same we try to prepare for codes in general. I remember one night shift when a very serious case was coming in – someone who was very violent a few days prior.  So I said, “Who is willing to get my medication?” And one nurse volunteered. “Who is coming in with me to the room?” Another nurse volunteered. “Do we have a bed on psych?”, etc. I just try to get everything organized and then go in. When I meet the patient, I start with, “Why are you here tonight?” I try to be very calm because if you’re aggressive, they immediately respond to it and it’s over. 

There is a line in my new book when a nurse says, “I’ve been kicked, I’ve been punched, I’ve been strangled with my own stethoscope – it’s not my first rodeo.” That is a direct quote from a nurse I work with. A lot of frontline healthcare workers are hit and kicked and we don’t talk about it because we try to be patient-centred and very understanding. And while we’re doing that, people who are in the healthcare field are being hurt and we should be addressing that. 

You dedicated this book to Dr. Elana Fric and used it as a platform to speak candidly about Intimate Partner Violence. Tell me more.

There was a Toronto family physician named Elana Fric who was very well-respected. She was a leader in the Ontario Medical Association, a mother of three, and a marathon runner. She was someone who a lot of people loved and looked up to. She was killed by her husband two days after she served him with divorce papers.

As a physician, I already knew about intimate partner violence, which is what we now call domestic violence. The idea is that the Emergency Room especially is a place where you find victims of violence and intimidation and you should be intervening if you can. But it’s not an easy thing to do. 

What I have done since Dr. Fric’s death is broaden my questions. I used to ask people if anyone was hurting them if I suspected violence, but I now I’ve broadened it because the best test is one you give everybody. So now when anybody comes in with an injury, I say “Is somebody hurting you?” 

I will also be donating part of the proceeds of this book to Dr. Fric’s children and some local anti-violence organizations. We have to protect vulnerable women in our society. One way to do that is to give funds to organizations that already exist and know what to do but just need more cash flow.

The idea is that the Emergency Room especially is a place where you find victims of violence and intimidation and you should be intervening if you can. But it’s not an easy thing to do. 

As a wife, mom, physician and writer, how do you find balance while working rotating shifts?

As a hospitalist (in-patient physician), I try and get everything really set up during the day. I view being a hospitalist like being the mayor of the village. I have a certain number of patients – my villagers – and they all need something from me. So I go in and meet them and try to figure out what they need and try to address that during the day. Of course, at night there are still crises but it’s not as bad.

Night shifts in the Emergency Room are tougher. So I am absolutely ferocious before and after my night shifts. I tell people, “Don’t call me!” I put up signs around my door that say “Shhh, sleeping!” If I need to, I’ll get an Air BnB outside my house because I don’t want my kids talking loudly where I can hear it. I’ve even asked my husband to set up my tent outside for me so I wouldn’t be in the house.

I really do hate night shifts and the disruption before and after. The only good thing is that I will usually try and eat something I like and read and relax before – I use it a reason to take better care of myself. It’s some “Me Time” that I’ve cleared. I also try to write more before to stockpile words. 

I wish people were more proactive about protecting their sleep and thinking about it like an emergency.

Any advice for new night shift workers?

I wish people were more proactive about protecting their sleep and thinking about it like an emergency. Sometimes people tell me, “I’m post-call, but my kids’ friends are over and jumping in the pool so I need to get up because that’s dangerous without me.” And my response is: “Never have extra little children in your house after a night shift!” 

For me, it’s about looking after yourself. I am ferocious about it. People who know night shifts are quite respectful about it. For example, I’ve had a doctor’s office e-mail me because they didn’t want to call in case I was working night shift and that was really cool.

But other people don’t get it, so you should silence your phone and turn off all notifications. In the last few years, I’ve sometimes taken medication to really knock me out.

Finally, will night shift workers be scared to work their next shift after your reading your latest book?

They might, but they also can take comfort in knowing that it cannot possibly go as wrong as it does in Graveyard Shift

Follow Dr. Melissa’s literary adventures on her website [click here]and sign up for her newsletter. Her latest medical thriller Graveyard Shift will be available November 1, 2019. Find out how to grab your copy [click here].

Photo Credit: Ladouceur PHOTO

Meal Kits + Shift Work

This post is *NOT* sponsored. Night Shift Wellness loves to share brands that make shift work easier and we think this is one of them! Scroll to the bottom for an exclusive deal available to Night Shift Wellness readers.

My co-workers introduced me to meal kit subscriptions. They swear by them as a sanity saver. Below are three examples of my colleagues – all shift workers – who really, really ♥️ meal kits.

  • One doctor I work with has three kids; his wife is also a doctor. Their family orders a family-sized meal kit each week. He says this makes an enormous difference to their life and lets them cook with their kids.
  • Another doctor resorted to meal kits after the staff razzed him for ordering every single meal as takeout. Every. Single. Meal.
  • A phlebotomist I work with says she never had time to plan healthy meals, do the groceries, and then all the prep for her husband, toddler, and pregnant self. She jokes that the only reason she eats vegetables is her meal kit subscription.

There are several meal kit options available in my area. I was wavering over which one to try, so I turned to my friend Emma who had tried every single option. For her, the clear winner was GoodFood, a brand I knew several of my coworkers were using. It wasn’t the cheapest, but Emma loved the variety and quality of the meals. The website is easy to use. The meals are delicious. The delivery options are great.

How does it work? You buy a subscription online, select your preferences, and they deliver meal kits to your door on a designated day. You choose how many meals you want per week and can select from 5 categories:

  • Classic Meals
  • Easy Prep Meals
  • Clean 15 (Low Carb)
  • Vegetarian Meals
  • Family-Style Meals

For my first week, I opted for three meals of two servings each from the Clean 15 category.

Everything you need to make the meals is delivered in a cooler box. The ingredients are divided to make it a no-brainer. Each kit contains all the ingredients you need, along with a set of simple, step-by-step instructions with photos.

My Meal Kit Choices

There are tons of options available each week. I opted for:

  • Grilled Maple-Mustard Chicken Breasts
  • Summer Beef Meatballs with Sweet Potato ‘Spaghetti’
  • Grilled Tofu Buddha Bowl

Meal #1: Grilled Maple-Mustard Chicken Breasts

How did GoodFood know that it was mid-July and I didn’t want to turn on my stove and instead wanted to hang out and BBQ on my porch in my flip-flops?! Oh, right, they have a whole team thinking these things through. Maybe I’m an easy sell, but I was already impressed that they just knew that crunchy, saucy salad with grilled chicken was exactly what this girl needed.

The instructions were incredibly easy and it took no time at all to whip this up. It felt a lot fancier than what I normally pull together for myself and it was SO tasty. Honestly, those nice folks must put a lot more thought into meals than I do – there was contrasting colours, textures, and flavours. There was crunchincness, sweetness, tanginess… there was even garnish! Five stars, highly recommend, would make again.

Meal #2: Summer Beef Meatballs with Sweet Potato ‘Spaghetti’

Another winner. This was so simple and SO good. Spiralized sweet potato ‘noodles’, flavour-packed meatballs, and a sassy sauce of cherry tomatoes.

I made this one between Night One and Night Two of hospital shifts. For me to cook at 5 pm before heading into my second shift, it has to be realllly easy. And this delivered. I had my first meal of it for supper and brought in the rest for a delicious 3 a.m. meal.

Again, I was impressed by how this meal had been summer-ized and was seasonal perfection! Fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, fresh parm. Fresh-ilicious!

Meal #3: Grilled Tofu Buddha Bowl

^^^^ The picture doesn’t do it justice because I made this at 10 p.m. at night and so there was no daylight to capture its beauty.

Guys, this is where things got interesting. I could pretend that I’m really open-minded and progressive about loving all foods but I’m not. Tofu just isn’t my jam. I didn’t finalize my choices online – which is supppper easy to do – so I ended up getting a Grilled Tofu Buddha Bowl meal kit shipped. This was totally avoidable and easy peasy to fix, but I flaked out partway through meal selection and forgot to choose all three meals. My bad.

I was off to a very strong start with the other meals, so I decided to dive in with a positive attitude. I didn’t end up loving all of this meal, because even with the fun spice blend provided for the grilled tofu, I couldn’t get on board with a block of curdled soybean. But, everything else about this meal was completely delicious. Matchstick beets, shredded daikon, marinated kale, and garlicky snap peas – I’d totally make it again, just with no tofu. There are so many other delicious options – no need to pick the tofu one!

The Bottom Line

I ordered my box for a week when I had a string of night shifts and I am 100% sure I ate a LOT better that week because a big ol’ box of great ingredients with instructions was dropped at my door. It made it a no-brainer to cook healthy meals.

I was impressed with GoodFood meal kits. I think they are a game changer for shift workers.

There is still some cooking and assembly required – and then the dishes, of course. But I found myself spending zero time meal planning and zero time grocery shopping. I spent between 20 and 30 minutes preparing each meal, and the results exceeded my expectations. I felt like a fancy pants chef and I had generous leftovers to bring with me on my shifts. So much winning.

As a con, I am somewhat concerned about the amount of packaging involved in these kits, but here’s the Good Food website recommends dropping the cardboard box, insulation liner, bags, bottles and baskets in your recycling bin. Also, the solution in the ice packs is a water and salt gel, so you can pop them in your freezer, or snip off the ends and pour the all-natural solution in the toilet.

This concern is counteracted with another pro: I definitely had less food waste using their meal kits. I tend to overbuy ingredients, but GoodFood sent exactly what I needed to prepare each tasty dish.

The bottom line? I highly, highly recommend night shift workers try meal kits. If you live in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia and the Maritimes, then I recommend starting with Good Food. I think you’ll love it!

Are you ready to try GoodFood for yourself? Get $40 off your first basket – no strings attached – using this link. <<< (full disclosure: affiliate link) You can choose what kind of meals you want, how many meals you want to receive and the number of portions. Just go for it!

Big Decisions While Working Nights: Yes or No?

I hadn’t given much thought to making big life decisions while working nights until recently. I listened as one nurse asked another nurse if she’d decided on a new vehicle. The second nurse replied,

“Oh no, I won’t decide that while I’m working my nights! I’ll finish my nights, have a good sleep, and then decide.”

Leave it to a seasoned trauma nurse to be so pragmatic.

When I paused to think about it, I realized this nurse had just taught me an important lesson: do not make big life decisions in the middle of a string of nights!

I already knew from a little life experience that good decisions are rarely made after midnight. Online shopping in the wee hours had never ended too well for me. And what is it about the middle of the night that makes problems loom larger? Or makes sweeping life changes seem sensible? No, no – I had already learned not to go job hunting online after midnight, send important e-mails, or make expensive purchases.

After thinking over what this nurse said about making decisions during her stretch of night shifts, I realized that I could easily postpone most major life choices for at least a day or two– apartment hunting, vacation destination, financial decisions, etc. It can all afford to wait another day or two, when I back in the “land of the living” and feeling more rested and clear-headed.

What about you? How do you navigate big decisions while working nights?

A 10 Minute Staircase Workout for Night Shift

Here we go! Try this workout session that takes less than 10 minutes. All you need is an empty stairwell – so it’s perfect for night shift.

  1. Warm up for two minutes by slowly walking up and down stairs.
  2. Run up the steps as fast as safely possible for 20 seconds. Head back down slowly.
  3. Walk the hallway for two minutes.
  4. Run back up the stairs for another 20 seconds. Head back down slowly.
  5. Walk for two more minutes.
  6. Run the stairs for a final 20 seconds. Head back down slowly.
  7. Cool down with three minutes of stair and corridor walking. 

Do You Have a Night Shift Hobby?

Some people who work the night shift actually work all night. I’m not one of those people.

Sure, I’m technically at work all night. And there are definitely nights when I walk in at 7 p.m. and work in a near frenzy until my relief arrives at 7 a.m.

But there are other nights where there are large chunks of the night – usually the wee hours – that have no tasks to offer. The patients are registered, the charts are up-to-date, the office supplies are fully stocked, the scanning is finished… and those sweet nights offer the gift of time.

Well, a specific kind of time. It’s not like I can go do the things I’d really like to do… like sleep for a few hours or boot up my Macbook. And there is a very narrow window of what is considered to be professionally acceptable at a nursing station. It’s not the time to break out the watercolour paints. Painting your nails is also definitely out of the question. The whole team needs to be ready to dive into action at any moment. No wet nails allowed.

I think a lot of night shift workers are in a similar situation. We need to be there – awake and alert – but sometimes we have stretches of downtime. It can be helpful to fill this downtime with activity to stay fresh and awake.

Suitable night shift activities are things that you can easily pick up and put down. Something you can tuck into your work bag and bring with you “just in case” you end up with a few minutes.

Depending on your workstation setup and workplace rules, you could try:

  • Knitting
  • Reading (fiction! non-fiction! comic books!)
  • Solving crosswords and Sudoku puzzles
  • Journalling & sketching
  • Mending a small clothing item
  • Meal planning
  • Perusing the flyers
  • Planning a vacation
  • Taking an online course
  • Writing thank you cards

You definitely want to check with your team what is considered acceptable or unacceptable at your job. No sense in getting fired over a knitting project.

Do you have night shift hobbies? Tell us what they are below in the comments!

Night Shift Wellness Do You Have a Night Shift Hobby?

9 Benefits of Working the Night Shift

In almost every industry there are people that work all night long to keep the wheels of our modern world turning. Night shift workers work hard so others can snooze peacefully at night by keeping them safe (first responders, doctors, nurses, construction workers), keeping them fed (farmers, truckers), and keeping the economy moving (manufacturing, technical support, customer service).

If you’ve tried out working the night shift, then you know that it doesn’t take too much time to figure out some of the downsides of a graveyard schedule. You might even be wondering if working nights is actually a good decision. But did you know that there are actually some perks to working the night shift? Some employees intentionally choose to work the night shift because they may find that the benefits actually outweigh the risks and downsides of working nights.

1. Shorter commute

Chances are that you’ll be heading to work while everyone is on their way home and then reversing the process in the morning. This translates into a lot less traffic and much shorter commute time.  And if you take public transportation, then the majority of the crowd will be going in the opposite direction to you. This is a great perk for night shift workers in larger cities where commuting time can eat up a lot of their day.  

2. Less competition

There are definitely fewer people who are willing to work overnight shifts. This might mean that your odds of getting a promotion in your current position is greater. Working the night shift for even just a few years may allow you to climb the corporate ladder faster. In the meantime, you also may have access to more shifts or more overtime shifts, resulting in a bigger paycheque.

3. Better pay

Most companies pay a premium to their employees for working the night shift. Where I work, the premium is minimal and would not be enough of an incentive alone to work nights, but I do notice a difference at the end of the month on my paycheck when I’ve worked a string of night shifts. It’s definitely worth finding out if your potential employer offers a nighttime premium, also called a night differential rate. (Pssssst… some employers also pay a weekend premium, so if you can snag night shift on weekends then you may get a double dose of bonus pay.)

4. Fewer disruptions

One of the most appealing things for many workers regarding the night shift is the fact that the workplace is often quieter than normal. This makes it easier to focus because there are fewer disruptions and interruptions- both surefire productivity killers. Of course, there’s usually still some chit chat and banter, but you’ll likely find that generally more people are focused on their own tasks. This means you may actually power through your workload quicker and have leftover time to putter away on a project of your own.

5. Fewer meetings

Ahhhh, who loves being trapped in a never-ending meeting? Not me! Almost every company holds all of its meetings during the day. Working the night shift saves you time that you would otherwise spend in mandatory meetings. If you’re really interested in what happened during a meeting,  just asked for the meeting minutes or a brief synopsis. 

6. Less drama

Most night shift workers will tell you that there is less bureaucracy at night. Most bosses and upper management aren’t working the night shift. Generally speaking, the night shift has fewer employees working, meaning fewer kerfluffles and draining drama. In fact, I’ve met several nurses over the years who intentionally work exclusively overnight shifts and have for decades. When I ask them why choose a schedule that many others would reject, they tell me that they just can’t stand the drama of daytime politics.

7. Alternative availability

Some workers intentionally choose to work all night so that they can be home during the day for various reasons. Some parents work all night, then sleep while their munchkins are at school and are awake in time for after-school pick-up. And running errands is so much less stressful when you are working on the opposite schedule of most of the population… you can shop at a time when the aisles are empty and the parking lots have plenty of spots available.  

8. Slower pace

Night shift in most industries has an entirely different pace with a more relaxed environment and teamwork approach. This means a less harried pace, allowing the satisfaction of a job well done rather than a rush job. Some night shift teams actually consider themselves the “clean-up crew” because they have the time to slow down and do things methodically. From re-stocking to deep cleaning to tackling those niggly tasks that no one on day shift seems to have time for… night shift often has the time and flexibility to get them done.

9. More time for learning

Because nighttime shifts often have a different pace, there’s often more time for ongoing education. I’ve observed that the senior nurses in my department have a lot more time for hands-on demonstrations and to field questions from junior nurses during the night shift.

I’ve personally experienced the value of putting slower nights to good use. I was able to complete an entire college course certificate program while working overnights as a switchboard operator. Not only did I get paid to be there, but I walked away from that job with the education to get a career upgrade.

Some people even manage to work the night shift and attend daytime classes in order to complete a college or university course. Of course, you don’t want to sacrifice your health but it may be possible to accomplish both with careful scheduling.

After looking at the benefits of working the night shift, would you consider it? Are any of these advantages big enough to make you leave those daytime banking hours and join the secret underground world of night shift workers?

9 Benefits of Working the Night Shift

How to Keep your Bedroom Dark

Absolute darkness is essential to deep sleep, whether it’s daytime or nighttime. Your brain can detect even tiny amounts of light through closed eyelids, which can disturb your sleep cycles. The goal is to make your sleep room pitch-dark.

If you share your bedroom with a nighttime sleeper, they too will appreciate your efforts to make your bedroom completely dark. Some street lamps now use energy-efficient LEDs, which emit light in the blue part of the spectrum, which is considered the most sleep-sabotaging kind of all. So blocking out all outside light – during both the day and night – can result in better sleep for everyone.

Use blackout blinds and curtains

Use a combination of blackout shades and opaque curtains to block all light from outside. The best way to make the room absolutely dark is by installing an inside-mounted blackout blind/shade inside the window frame. Then hang outside-mounted blackout curtains on a curtain rod that extends several inches outside the window frame on both sides. The point of doubling up is to ensure total darkness. Even high-end blackout products may allow a tiny bit of light to creep in the sides. A combination of a shade and curtains provides the maximum effect.


How to choose a blind

Cellular shades are the best for blocking out the light. Blinds allow can allow a small amount of light to seep in between the horizontal slats. Roller blinds often eventually curl up and become less effective. Choose the cordless cellular shades, as there’s no chance then of the cord malfunctioning.

Start by measuring the inside dimensions of your window frame. The width of the shade should be slightly narrower than the widow of your window frame- about ¼ to ½ inch. The length of the shade should be long enough to reach the very bottom of your window. If it’s a bit longer, no worries.

How to choose curtains

You definitely want to choose the ones specifically marked as “blackout” and not just “light filtering” or “room darkening.” We’re going for NASA level technology here. The curtains should be long but shouldn’t pool on the floor– you can hem them with hemming tape or bring them to a tailor. Use enough curtain panels… if you think you need one on each side, consider doubling that so you get good thickness and they fully cover every possible inch.

How to choose a curtain rod

You don’t want any light seeping out on either side of the window. There are two options:

  1. Buy a wraparound rod that curves at the ends so that the curtains can be drawn all the way back to the wall.
  2. Buy a curtain rod that is at least a foot wider than your window frame. Then draw curtains fully across the windows all the way to the edge of the curtain rod for full coverage.

Go analog

Swap your digital alarm clock for an analogue one. (Stuck on having a digital clock? Switch to red. Digital clocks with red numbers are considered less disruptive than ones with white or blue digits. Just turn it so it is facing away from you.)

Unplug/cover up electronics

Unplug whatever you can. Use small dots of black electrical tape to cover up any lights on electronics.

Use a “snake” at the door

Block out any light spilling in underneath door frames by placing a snake across the bottom of your doorframe. They are like long, skinny bean bags filled with rice and were often used in old homes to block out drafts. A snake will block out light and muffle outside noises that might sneak in.

Eye mask

Here’s the easiest peasiest solution of them all: Buy a sleep mask that fits your face perfectly.

Night Shift Wellness How to Keep your Bedroom Dark

 

How to Have a Social Life on Night Shift

Shift workers often grapple with how to have a social life when working the graveyard shift. If you miss out on too many events in a row, it can take a toll on your happiness and add stress to your relationships. Night shift workers can experience bouts of feeling ‘out of the loop’ or isolated from family and friends. I spoke with some night shift workers who have managed to balance out they’re shifty schedule with getting enough social time. Here are their best suggestions.

Communicate

Help your friends and family understand you’re on a different schedule. Explain that 2 p.m. in the afternoon for them is like 2 a.m. in the morning for you. Suggest times to get together that work with your work/sleep schedule. Try: “Let’s meet up for a bite before I head in Friday night” or “How about breakfast on Sunday morning after I finish my shift?” You might find that you have to work harder to maintain relationships with loved ones who have conflicting schedules, but it’s worth it to keep those connections alive!

Use tech to meet up

In order to meet up with good friends who work traditional hours, use scheduling apps to help you find overlapping time between your schedule and theirs. This helps take the guesswork out of your availability so you can focus on planning what you’ll do for fun instead of when you can find a few hours when you are both awake/available.

Be prepared

Be ready to socialize by using your time off when others aren’t free to take care of errands and chores. Take care of meal prep, grocery shopping, dry cleaning pickup or swimming class registration during your downtime while your friends are working. Then you’ll be ready to meet up and party on once they’re off work.

Embrace breakfast dates

Breakfast is a great time to catch up because it works with almost anybody’s schedule. You’re quitting night shift at 7 am and your friend starts her workday at 9 am? Grab some sunny side up eggs together at 7:30 am! You both need to eat breakfast anyways. It can be a great time of day to touch base with your folks, catch up with a friend, or even go on a date. Breakfast for the win!

Save up your vacation time

Save up as much vacation time as you can to use for holidays or special events with your favourite peeps. Obviously, this will depend on approval from your boss and whether others have first dibs on that time off. But your odds increase if you ask for time off as soon as possible so you can make it to weddings, rock concerts, pie eating contests, or whatever events are important to you.

Find others with similar schedules

To keep your social circle full, seek out new friends with similar working hours. Look to meet people in the same industry or in other industries with unusual working hours –  restaurants, hotels, first responders, hospital staff, security guards, etc. They might have a similar schedule to you and even if not, they’ll certainly understand the challenges of having a job with unusual hours. Chances are that they’ll be game for pre-work gym sessions, post-work breakfast meet-ups, or Netflix binges on turnaround days. etc.

Keep it short and sweet

If your family or friends are having a party that you want to attend, make sure to sleep the entire time before it begins. Have your lunch packed, your clothes ready and your work bag ready to go so you can rest as much as possible before stopping in for some socialization before heading off to work. In my experience, I can often attend events– but just the beginning. I stop in, say hello, grab some food, and then sail off to work. I usually make it clear when I accept an invite that I’ll need to dine-and-dash in order to get to work, but most hosts would prefer you come for a short time than not come at all.

Use e-mail

The beauty of e-mail is that you can write a bit whenever you have time, add to it later, and send it any time of day without waking anyone up. Personally, I use e-mail to stay in touch with my best friend in another city and my aunt in another country. It would be almost impossible to find frequent times to call or visit them with our mutually hectic schedules, but I can easily stay in touch pen-pal style. I often have quiet periods on the night shift, so I’ll type up an e-mail at 4 am to bring them up-to-date. They write back when they have time. We swap recipes, send photos and share stories. It’s a small thing that keeps us close despite conflicting schedules.

How do you keep your social life alive while working nights? Any tips or tricks you can share?

Night Shift Wellness How to Have a Social Life on Night Shift

How to Eat Clean while Working the Night Shift

Is it just my workplace, or is it standard practice to have delicious, deep-fried, sugar-laden options ushered in during the middle of the night shift? When my stomach is growling? And my resistance is lowest?

There are also generous coworkers who do middle-of-the-night coffee runs and deliver my sugary, syrupy macchiato. Not to mention the home-baked goodies that grateful patients have dropped off. And the siren call of the vending machines. Every. Single. Shift.

If your meal breaks are either hard-to-find or often interrupted, then healthy grazing is the best way to stay fuelled.

If you don’t have healthy snacks prepared, it’s too easy to start snacking on muffins, doughnuts or the pizza your coworker is sharing. Those kind of night shift diet choices start to take at toll after a few weeks, months, or years of shift work. Here’s some ideas that just might keep you out of the 3 a.m. doughnuts.

1. Plan ahead

Prep work will pay off big time. So before you disappear into the relentless grind of back-to-back night shifts, take a few minutes to get prepared with some go-to healthy foods.

  • Wash fruit
  • Chop veggies
  • Whip up some smoothies (store them in the freezer)
  • Make hard-boiled eggs
  • Cook grains (quinoa, brown rice, etc.)

2. Pack snacks

Prepare for your shift the same way you would prepare a little kid’s lunch. Because by 2 a.m., we all start to feel like a overtired, very hungry toddlers. Beat the temper tantrum by filling several small resealable containers with appealing, healthy snacks.

  • Carrot, celery and red pepper sticks with hummus
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Plain yogurt with crunchy granola and raspberries
  • Oatmeal muffins with fruit & nuts
  • Quinoa salad with chopped fresh veggies and vinaigrette
  • Healthy granola bars
  • Peanut butter energy balls

3. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is a simple way to keep you feeling awake and ward off hunger pains.

  • Get a couple of good refillable water bottles and fill them up – add some lemon wedges and mint leaves for a zesty refresh
  • Invest in some high-quality tasty teas to stash at work or in your bag – make a hot tea when you’re tempted to sip a sugary hot drink to stay awake. (And if you’re like me, I get really cold in the middle of the night and need something hot to warm me up.)
  • Make a quick berry smoothie or green smoothie and stash it in the fridge until you’re ready for it. It’s portable nutrition that will fill you up without causing a sugar crash.

4. Treat yo-self

You don’t want to feel deprived or like you’re missing out on the fun. By packing one or two small treats to enjoy during your shift, you’ll have already set limits before you dive head-first into the fresh box of donuts.

  • A small bar of dark chocolate
  • Healthy cookies (yes, they exist!)
  • Chocolate-covered raisins or almonds
  • Vanilla or rice pudding

5. Use freezer bag slow cooker meals

Prepare some freezer bag slow cooker meals on your days off. Put them into the slow cooker when you get home in the morning after your shift. Go to bed, and supper will be ready for you when you wake up. Pack up some leftovers to bring to work for a midnight dinner.

Need some recipes to get started with this idea? Grab a copy of my Slow Cooker Freezer Bag: Complete Guide + Recipes for all the tips, tricks, and recipes you need.

Night Shift Diet Healthy Eating