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Shift Work Disorder—Does It Really Have an Effect?

Career News April 16, 2013

Shift work sleep disorder is a disorder that affects many nurses, and has an extremely observable effect on hard-working medical staff. Nursing is a profession that depends on workers being sharp-minded, detail-oriented and attentive to the needs of patients. However, when they are overworked, naturally, they are going to turn in a sluggish performance.

You must keep in mind that nursing is an unusual career field because it is not highly flexible in terms of work shifts. You work when the hospital or the doctor needs you. It is not a conventional office job, since hospitals are always open, and there is certainly no such thing as a nine to five schedule. You have obligations to doctors and patients. You have to monitor the unit constantly and work day or night shifts as needed. Unfortunately, aspiring nurses who need their me-time, nursing hours are long and at times grueling. And yes, anyone who works in the field will tell you that shift work disorder can have a serious effect on a nurse’s physical and mental well-being. It is not uncommon for a nurse to work 12 hour days, and this can wreak havoc in personal lives outside of the facility.

Possibility of Sleep Disorders

Sleeping disorders are bound to happen when a person keeps irregular sleeping patterns. Unfortunately, unpredictable work hours can cause this, and may lead to insomnia and other sleeping problems. The University of North Carolina’s Department of Sociology states disturbing the “body’s circadian rhythm” can directly affect how a nurse feels, and how healthy he or she is. Bad sleep habits can even affect work performance, and cause weight gain.

The Importance of Staying Healthy

If you choose the lifestyle of a nurse, you will not maintain much control over your schedule. This will put added pressure on you to stay healthy, stay alert, and focused, in order to give your job a full effort. Healthy eating habits are imperative, as our routines of sleeping, eating at the same times, and staying in good shape. Do not make it a habit to disrupt your sleeping schedule or eating time.

At times, interrupting your routines will be unavoidable. If you are at work and lives are on the line then you have to accept your obligations. You may have to eat on the go, lose a few hours of sleep, and eat faster meals, as opposed to healthier meals. What matters though is that you maintain some semblance of a routine, where possible, to avoid developing gastrointestinal disorders due to a hectic pace.

The Effect on Relationships

Shift work disorder can also affect relationships with friends and family. Long work hours can limit your time with a partner. Working uneven hours can affect all of your relationships. After all, even if you are at home and not on the clock, all you might feel like doing is sleeping. There are reports of some medical staff working 24 hour shifts. You and your spouse must prepare for this change in lifestyle.

Nursing is a delightful and meaningful career; there is no doubt of that. Still, it is a profession you must anticipate. A nurse must understand the risks of this disorder. He or she must also plan “maintenance” for potential problems with sleeping, dieting and handling relationships. Patients are your priority, but you must remain balanced and not neglect your own health. Rely on family as you embark on this challenging, but amazing career.

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