While I love spontaneity as much as the next person, I am very much a creature of habit. This is especially true during the hours before I show up for a 12-hour shift and the hours after. I have had many new nurses and nursing students ask me how I wind down after a crazy shift when I have to be back to work later that night. So I’ve decided to lay it out step-by-step. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t follow this like an itinerary. Adding that kind of rigidity to my post-shift stress is a bad idea. Instead this is a general process I follow that makes sense for me, as I move from the front door to a hopefully deep slumber for 6-8 hours.
I’m a list lover, so this is going to be a chronological list. I hope you’re able to glean something helpful for yourself from this.
Before I leave the unit, I SaniWipe everything. I wipe down my cell phone, the treads of my shoes, my stethoscope (which I leave at work), my badge, or anything else I’ve handled during the course of my shift. I don’t intend to bring home any germies. Many people choose to change shoes before they leave work. I do sometimes, but often times I just clean them. That’s another perk of Danskos (not spons) - You can just wipe ‘em down.
I refill my 32 oz water mug with the hospital ice chips I love so much. Then I book it out of there. I try to hyper-hydrate myself between shifts because I get so terribly busy and dehydrated when I work. So I try to finish that 32 oz before bed (I have a big nurse bladder, guys!)
Ok, fast forward my 8 minute drive home (6 without traffic), shoes come off at the door.
The Post-Shift Routine
Re-Pack My Lunch
Lunch bag with any leftovers goes in fridge. Typically I re-pack my lunch for that night immediately. This is one of those tasks that never gets done if I procrastinate. I HATE packing my lunch before shift when I’m tired and cranky. haha
I Toilet One More Creature
Although I’m soo over toileting people after 12-13 hours, I let my dog out to potty if bae hasn’t already done so (he usually does, bless his heart). This is especially important timing in the MidWest United States winter. Once my scrubs come off and I shower, I’m not going back outside into the freezing cold. I feed pup and while he eats and does his morning self-play, I head into my room.
”My Room” is my office/closet/makeup table/art studio/podcast headquarters, and guest room. Whew. That’s a crowded many-purpose room but it’s mine. <3 As soon as I enter the room, the contents of every scrub pocket + badge + wearable light go into a designated basket on my desk.
It’s it’s a small basket that holds a smorgasbord of pens, badge reels, alcohol swabs, pen lights and other fun nursey tools. So yeah, I dump it all for easy access later.
Nerd Alert: She’s Going to Mention “Devices”
I’m not gogogadgetnurse on Insta for nothing. I have to recharge my techie tool belt before I pass out. I plug in my earbuds that I wear on breaks and sometimes while charting (one in and one ear free to hear call lights, bed alarms and monitors). I recharge my phone, iPad if it’s low, and my power bank to keep aforementioned gadgets working. If my stethoscope amplifier is low or I might bring that home to charge.
Once my scrubs are free of devices and tools, they go into laundry or directly into the washer, depending on the laundry sitch.
2nd best part of my post shift routine
Ok, those that know me know that I love mood lighting including colored lights in various places in the house. The bathroom has LED strip lights around the vanity and mirror so I put on the color of my choosing - which is still bright enough to see - but dark enough that it lulls my brain into nighttime darkness mode. I put lo-fi hip hop on my Bluetooth shower speaker (which also glows the color of my choice) and try to channel chill relaxed vibes as i take a hot shower. This sounds soooo cheezy in text, but I’m telling you, this helps make my brain think that the sun isn’t really just coming up outside.
I stretch out my neck and shoulders while I shower. A little moisturization after during and after, and I’m a happy camper.
Guarantee that sleep
We all know that panic of having finite time to catch zzzz’s between long shifts, so I don’t mess around. I work 2-3 nights a week an between shifts I take melatonin and a prescription sleep aid. I put my beloved super deluxe eye mask that wraps around my whole head on like a headband til i’m ready to crash. It’s big, soft and has Bluetooth speakers in the side. I set my phone to Do Not Disturb and switch from lo-fi hip hop to my ASMR video du jour (I’ll cover my ASMR obsession in another post) . This process has become such a pleasurable way to go to sleep that I rarely skip it even on nights off.
Guarantee That Wake Up, Too!
I set 3 alarms because I am a super heavy sleeper sometimes and I have slept through alarms. The first alarm is gentle, the second is a little louder, and the third is a loud White Stripes Song, usually. Bae knows to come in and get my ass up if I sleep through the loud alarm.
The Best Part: Bed Yoga. Yes, Bed Yoga
Guys, I’m not doing Warrior poses in my bed, but there are some really great stretches that can be done from the warm, squishy comfort of your bed. And, man, do I l love transitioning from a stretch to sleep as the sleep aid kicks in. It helps that I have a pillow, blanket and bed I love. If you don’t know what the hell bed yoga would even look like, here is the video that was my gateway to this whole thing.
Usually by the time I get to this point my dog has settled in to some cozy blanket pile at the foot of the bed to chew on his antler. I am usually asleep, I hope, pretty soon after this. I keep my water by the bed in case I wake up mid day feeling parched. If the sleep gods are willing I sleep for 7-8 hours between 12 hour shifts.
Invariably the alarm goes off way earlier than I wish it did.
In the next post, I’ll walk you through my wake up routine - which is so much harder to stick to, since I am a 10-hours-a-night kind of gal usually.
If you work nights, I hope you have found a perfect sequence of wind down activities to get you from the busy hospital unit to slumberland. If not, I hope some of these steps can bring you some inspiration and, with any luck, sleep.
Goodnight, my darlings.