How Do Per Diem Nursing Shifts Affect Your Health?
By Melissa Wirkus Hagstrom, contributor
We all know the importance of a solid sleep schedule and wellness routine, but as a nurse, you also understand that achieving success in these areas can be easier said than done.
Changing shifts back and forth—from night to day or evening and back again—can affect sleep and other health issues. But per diem nursing shifts that are grouped together can help with more days of rest, better sleep patterns and an overall healthier lifestyle. Also, by incorporating healthy eating, exercise and mental health awareness, per diem nurses can find professional success and personal fulfillment.
According to a 2019 study published in Occupational Medicine, entitled “Systematic Review of Shift Work and Nurses' Health,” shift work involves an alteration in psychophysical homeostasis, with a decrease in performance. “It is an obstacle for social and family relationships, as well as a risk factor for stress, sleep disorders, metabolic disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and breast cancer,” according to the study authors.
The review concluded that “an organized ergonomic turnaround can be less detrimental to the health of nurses and more beneficial for the healthcare providers. Therefore, we suggest organizing studies to assess whether improving nurses' health would lead to a reduction in miscarriages, absenteeism and work-related stress.”
Learn more about per diem nursing jobs.
Tips for staying healthy while working per diem shifts
1. Group shifts and manage schedules with a mobile app
Stepping into the driver’s seat is the first step to staying healthy as a per diem nurse. Given the right tools, you can organize nursing shifts to fit your lifestyle and allow you the optimal amount of rest. Per diem nurses can now take control of their own schedules with the new AMN Hub mobile app. With AMN Hub, nurses and allied professionals can search hundreds of per diem shifts by location and specialty, book multiple shifts based on availability, and receive instant shift confirmation.
You may find it works best to cluster several night shift assignments together so that your sleep schedule has continuity and your circadian rhythm doesn’t get disrupted. This leads to better sleep and health than switching back and forth from day to night.
2. Prioritize healthy eating and exercise habits
Sometimes you won’t be able to control bouncing from day to night shifts, and this is where good nutrition and exercise can help keep you healthy and on track. You want to make sure you are fueling your body with the right mix of fruits, vegetables, protein, carbs, fats and fiber. Consider incorporating an easy to follow macronutrient plan that will give you a guideline for each meal.
The USDA’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans introduces the “MyPlate” plan which you can customize to meet your nutritional goals and needs. The key tenets of the plan are:
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Make half your grains whole grains.
- Move to low-fat or fat-free dairy milk or yogurt (or lactose-free dairy or fortified soy versions).
- Focus on whole fruits.
- Vary your veggies and your protein routine.
- Choose foods and beverages with less added sugars, saturated fat and sodium.
The link between nutritious eating and better health outcomes is well documented and is an excellent way to ensure you stay healthy and happy as a per diem nurse.
Exercise also has multiple benefits for nurses, ranging from relieving stress to increasing stamina and maintaining your health. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity—or an equivalent combination. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week, and muscle-strengthening activities should be incorporated into your exercise plan, as well.
3. Develop healthy sleep habits
Establishing a sleep routine is essential to shift work and finding one that can work for both day and night per diem shifts will be key. Limiting caffeine, “unplugging” before bed time (which means no phones, tablets or TVs at least an hour or two before you plan on hitting the sheets) and creating a comfortable and cool sleep environment (most experts recommend a room temp of about 67 degrees F) are some of the most important elements of any sleep routine.
If you have a shared housing situation, it’s also important to communicate your sleep schedule to your roommates, friends or family members. If noise is an issue, consider investing in some high-quality ear plugs and a sound machine to create white noise. Going to bed and waking up around the same time is also a key component of a healthy sleep routine. This can be achieved easiest when shift types are grouped together to ensure consistency. Most adults should aim for at least 7 hours of solid sleep per night (or day).
Per diem nursing jobs offer a variety of benefits such as excellent compensation, flexibility and the ability to control the direction of your career. If you’re ready to work per diem shifts on your terms, apply with Nursefinders today!