Medical professionals who work at hospitals or 24-hour clinics often work long shifts to ensure every patient is cared for around the clock. Whether eight hours, 12 or even longer, these extended periods of work can easily sap your energy, leaving you tired, stressed and easily distracted. This is when the most mistakes occur and, in a medical setting, the consequences could be deadly. That’s why it’s so important to stay alert and sustain focus throughout your shift, no matter how long it is.
Here are a few ways to do just that.
1. Have a Cup of Joe
Many medical professionals rely on caffeine to get through their shift and keep from nodding off. Sipping a cup of coffee could help stimulate your brain and make you feel more alert. Remember that drinking too much can lead to adverse side effects like anxiety, shakiness and nausea, which can inhibit your focus. Therefore, it’s best to have a cup as you begin your shift to give you a boost of energy and set the tone for your day or night on the clock.
2. Practice Deep Breathing
You can enter your shift with all the positivity in the world and still run into snags. When chaos erupts and the unthinkable happens, you’ll still have to keep your head and maintain focus. That’s where deep breathing comes in handy. Taking a few deep breaths can calm the nervous system and clear your mind. Do this consistently throughout long shifts to reduce tension and stay sane.
3. Enjoy Light, Digestible Foods
Cake, cookies and candy might look appealing if you work the night shift. Unfortunately, the sweet treats you crave aren’t going to give your brain the energy it needs to stay alert and maintain focus. Foods that contain extra calories, sugars, saturated fat and salt can slow you down, too. That’s why it’s important to enjoy light, easy-to-digest foods throughout your shift. Whole foods like vegetables and fruit and protein-rich picks like chicken and hummus are great choices, day or night.
4. Stay Hydrated
Coupled with eating healthy, drinking plenty of water can also improve your focus and boost concentration. Avoid sugary drinks and sodas that cause blood sugar spikes and crashes. Reach for water instead. Bring your own reusable bottle and infuse it with sliced fruit, cucumbers, or herbs like rosemary and mint. Water-rich snacks like watermelon, cherry tomatoes and broccoli can help you stay hydrated, too.
5. Nix Phone Usage
You work in a fast-paced environment and face many challenges when you’re on the clock. The last thing you need is your phone buzzing in your pocket, too. Each interruption can increase the risk of clinical error by 10%-13%, which is massive when you consider how often you get notifications. Minimize distractions and protect patients by leaving your phone in your purse or coat. Otherwise, put it on silent so it doesn’t ring or vibrate and distract you from the matter at hand.
6. Use Breaks Wisely
You only have one or two breaks, so you better use them wisely. Instead of scrolling through your socials, take a power nap in your car or go for a brisk walk. Walking is a proven creativity booster, and being in nature can promote recovery from mental fatigue. A few extra minutes of shut-eye never hurt, either. Remember to eat a light lunch, drink more water and take a few deep breaths before clocking back in to refresh and reset.
Maintaining a Focused Mind
Sustaining focus through a shift is difficult, regardless of how much you prepare. However, you can set yourself up for success by developing a routine that prioritizes mental and physical health. Whether you’re at home or on the clock, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is integral to achieving a work-life balance that helps you feel focused and present.