Midwife Monday: How to Recover from a 24 hour Shift

Grand Tetons, WY

Hello!

Just popping on today to offer a couple tips on how to recover from a 24 hour shift. I’ve worked 24 hour shifts since 2012. I did them in graduate school unintentionally…I would go to school all day and then work a night shift as a nurse. And since gradation, the 24 hour shift has always been part of my work schedule.

Some midwives don’t work 24 hour shifts and do a hybrid of 12 or 16 hour shifts. I think the majority that deliver babies do.

I’m no an expert by any means. But these tips would have been helpful a long time ago. Hope they help those walking the same work schedule – or, for those heading into 24 hour shift work that haven’t worked them before.


Sleep

This is a no brainer. Yet when you have worked all day and night and come home the next morning, there’s always something that needs to be done. Make sleep the number 1 priority. Even for those mamas with littles. We may think we are functioning fine, but usually we are barely functioning. The caveat to this is when I’ve been able to sleep about 5 continuous hours (the every hour pager buzz for the next thing the patient or nurses need is not continuous sleep).

Try to get 5 hours of sleep if you can. That’s a happy median to be able to function like a normal human. I used to be able to sleep all day but as I’ve gotten older, I can only sleep 4-5 hours. This makes functioning during the day a little harder, but it’s better than no sleep.

Don’t discount a good sleep environment too. Dark curtains, a cooler temperature in the room, a sound machine and a refreshing shower help the ease into slumber.

Another tip is to find something to help you wind down your brain. After a really dramatic birth (or a dramatic shift), it’s hard to stop the wheels from turning round and round. I find that doing something boring or monotonous for 20 minutes usually calms my brain down enough. I’ll either check email (very boring after 20 minutes) or listen to an audiobook on a very slow speed.

Lastly, when you wake up, make sure you make plans to try and go back to bed at a reasonable hour. Unless you need to be on nights again for the next shift. Sometimes I sleep from 10a-3p, then go back to sleep at 7p with my kids. It seems so early to me, but I always remind myself, “Jamie, you were awake an entire night last night. Go to sleep girl.”

Regardless of what you try or don’t try, don’t forgo or forget to prioritize the sleep.

Nutrition

You’re tired. But you need to eat too. Before going to sleep, I like to eat a cup of greek yogurt. It’s high in protein and easy on the stomach. You might sleep better on an empty stomach too. If that’s the case, try to eat a snack or a meal with protein a few hours before your shift ends.

My body is always a little sore after a shift. My feet are sore from all the walking. My back is sore from all the nursing care and often times, the pushing, birthing and laceration repair. Sore muscles need protein.

Post-nap/rest, make sure you eat a nutritious meal. My go to is eggs and cheese, bacon and toast. Yep, an all American breakfast. Breakfast is easy to get down, smells good regardless of how tired you are, and it never gets old. If I’m really feeling rested, I’ll throw pancakes on the griddle too. Chocolate chips for the kids, blueberries and butter for me.

Another tip is to use that crockpot. There is nothing better than a hot, delicious meal that’s ready to go. You could even meal prep the crock pot the day prior so all you have to do is come home and turn that thing on low. Freezer meals are also a win here if you need to feed a family.

Check out thrivinghome.com for recipes and books. Their genius is how my family eats.

Realistic expectations

Post-24 activities should be minimal. Try not to schedule soccer practice, dinner with family, grocery store pick, etc. the night after your 24. You’re going to be tired. Don’t over exert yourself more. There are exceptions. But this is a pass to be lazy. There is almost no better excuse than “I worked a 24 hour shift last night.”

Your goals should be pretty simple: rest, wake up, eat, take a walk outside, rest on couch, hang out with family, go back to bed. Don’t make it any harder than that.

Help

Not everyone can hire some help or have a significant other help while you recover. But someone has to pour into to you while you are pouring into others. Even a sitter for a few hours is better than nothing. Consider doing a swap with other mamas. Midwife schedules are so flexible and usually there are days off during the week that you can watch another mama’s kids in return. Look for help from college kids, nursing students, aspiring doulas or midwives…the key is, you have to ask for the help.

Exercise

You just worked 24 hours. That was exercise enough. I know. But you are in this game for the long run. Which means you have to take care of your body. It can be a walk, a run, some yoga, some strength training…your choice. Aim for 30 minutes of something to help you the stress cycle before your next shift or clinic. Don’t discount the impact this can have on maintaining the midwife lifestyle.

Fill your cup back up

This is different for everyone. For me, I like to curl up and read a book or a journal article. I like to read the Bible or a devotional. I like to hang out with my spouse and watch a movie. I like to take my kids to the playground and I really like to ignore my cell phone and pretend I don’t even have one (my friends and family will tell you I am notorious for sending back a text message 2-3 days later). But those are the things that fill me up. You can’t give to women, babies and their families nonstop. You have to figure out what fills you up and priorite it between the crazy hours we call a ‘schedule.’

What does everyone else do to recover from a 24 hour shift? Any other tricks of the trade or good tips for new grads?

I’m working on the 24 week visit behind the scenes…I’m thinking blue for this template.

Hugs,

Jamie


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1 year ago on the blog…I was writing my DNP paper…so there were no posts 🙂

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