We all know it can be extremely difficult to stay healthy at work, there always seems to be some temptation brought in as a treat! We want to offer out advice and guidance on how you can stay fit and healthy while on shift.

In the UK 1 in 4 Healthcare professionals are classed as obese with it being one of the hardest professions to work within while dieting. Insomnia and mental health conditions are also extremely common within the healthcare sector, so how can you ensure you stay physically and mentally healthy while on shift?

Eating before your shift

We have heard it many times, breakfast is the important meal of the day. With clinicians’ “breakfast” can be at any point of the day, therefor it is difficult to know what to eat! Shift patterns, late nights, early mornings and pesky rotas can mean you feel you are doing the wrong thing by having a large breakfast meal prior to your shift. Your body clock is what you need to focus on with regards to meal times. It is vital that prior to any shift you have a good, balanced meal in order to perform efficiently.

Studies have found that adults who consume breakfast have more energy, increased brain function, are able to control their weight. Therefor eating prior to your shift will give you the energy to get through the morning clinic without reaching for the biscuits and treats! Research shows that clinicians who eat before they attend clinics are less likely to help themselves to left overs and treats from the clinics before. Most nurses report that snacks on offer are more likely to be unhealthy ranging from crisps and donuts, to sometimes left-over pizza and takeaways.

We have looked into energy boosting breakfasts which you can consider for your pre-shift meal;

  • Eggs – loaded with protein and thirteen important nutrients such as vitamin A and Zinc these tasty little wonders are sure to keep you satisfied until lunch time! Eggs have been known to prevent food cravings and it’s something different to the everyday porridge approach!
  • Leafy Greens – we understand it may be difficult to incorporate a bit of veg into your breakfast, but leafy greens go extremely well with scrambled eggs and even omelette! 2 – 3 cups of these nutrient packed leaves is enough to cover the recommended daily amount! If you aren’t a fan of the taste in your food, why not add them to a smoothie to be masked with tasty fruity flavours.
  • Smoothies – it’s easy and tasty to get your power from a smoothie. In a recent poll it was discovered that 50% of the UK say they simply do not have time for breakfast. Smoothies are a great way to get energy fast while on the go. It’s simple to create a vitamin packed smoothie the night before your shift ready to grab and drink on the way to your clinic.
  • Water – it is absolutely vital that you have a glass of water in the morning prior to working. Your body has lost hydration throughout the night, this needs to be replaced in order to stay nourished and full of energy! This is not a meal, but dehydration is one of the biggest causing of energy loss. Keep topping up as the day goes on!

Healthy Meal Prep – Organise your Meals

Meal prep has become increasingly popular over the last year. Instagram is often filled with gym fanatics creating healthy dishes well ahead in order to stayed organised and healthy during the week. Meal prep is a good way to ensure you don’t give into temptation. By preparing your meals and taking them with you to work you will not feel the need to indulge in lunches which often aren’t healthy options.

It is common for clinicians to experience fatigue after their lunch, this is often referred to as a “carb-coma”. By taking in your own lunches and meal prepping, you are in control of your carbohydrate and sugar intake reducing your risk of afternoon fatigue. Did you know that one Apple is enough to power you for 12 hours! Imagine what more you could do by preparing nutritious meals ahead of time. Home cooked, nutrient filled meals are simple and easy to make at home. Follow the steps before in order to become a pro with meal prep;

  • Invest in containers – make sure you have enough Tupperware boxes. A good trick is to make sure the boxes are all the same size, so you don’t over indulge during your lunch! You can even buy snack pots for snacks such as fruit and nuts, so you don’t feel tempted by cakes!
  • Pack enough – look at your diary and ensure you are eating enough for each shift. By looking at the length of your shifts you will know exactly how much to pack for each day. Use labels to label the tubs based on days so you don’t get confused!
  • Mix it up – so you don’t get bored of having the same thing every day, look at a variety of recipes so you don’t get bored of the healthy diet. You can even use some meals to mix with others to create variety.
  • Slowly cook it – you don’t have to spend every evening creating dishes, you need to rest too! Why not slow cook meals throughout the week while at work and use these for lunches. This gives you time to relax at home but also means you don’t forget to meal prep for the week.

Get enough rest

Sleep is absolutely vital for clinicians to safely treat patients. Research has shown that most clinicians in the UK do not get the recommended 7-8 hours’ sleep per day. Not gaining the required amount of sleep your body needs can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing. Sleep loss alter brain function which can be dangerous when your profession has another person’s health in your hands. Brain function is vital for decision making and concentration, sleep deprivation can disrupt your body’s the ability to focus on environmental sensory input.

When an adult fails to get the correct amount of sleep required, you start to accumulate a sleep debt, this means it is extremely difficult to get back to a normal sleeping pattern. The main issue with clinicians and sleep is that many work on shift patterns which are usually unpredictable and change frequently based on rotas. There are things you can do to ensure you get a good sleep, no matter what time of the day it may be;

  • Relaxation techniques – in order for your body to rest you must be in a relaxed state, this includes mentally. Many people struggle to sleep due to an overactive brain. You can focus and relax by using the Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique. Within this method the individual tenses each muscle from their head to their toes and relaxes the muscle by releasing. By focusing on this technique your brain will also start to relax and clear ready for sleep
  • Control stimuli – this means not using your phone, TV or laptop prior to sleep. Studies have shown that the use of the cold, blue coloured tone on technology such as phones makes it hard for the brain to focus on sleep. Research has told us that in-fact people who use tablets, phones and TVs take 10 minutes longer than the average person to fall asleep. The colour contrast on your devices is responsible for the decrease in melatonin meaning you will be unable to sleep.
  • Black out – external lighting is one of the biggest contributors to sleep disturbance. When working various shift patterns, you will be used to having to get your 7 hours during the daylight hours. We recommend investing in a high-quality blackout blind in order to trick your body into thinking it is night time. Blackout blinds are made of blackout fabrics which block 100% of the light from passing through the material, if you buy high-quality you are sure to have a comfortable night’s sleep.

Exercise with the family

Exercise is important for everyone to maintain good health and wellbeing; however, it can be difficult to juggle an intense job, family time and find time to exercise. We understand that a clinician’s job is extremely active and very hands on, you are constantly on the move. We have looked into how clinicians can find time to see family and exercise at the same time, nothing too strenuous! Family activities are fantastic ways to spend quality time with the family and also get active! We recommend taking the family to the park for a long walk and some quality bonding time.

Take care of you

Working in healthcare is often stressful but very rewarding. It is important you surround yourself with support not just in work but socially also. AppLocum will always provide you with the best support we can possibly offer, with someone on hand to speak to 24 hours a day even at the weekend. Having a good bond with your recruitment advisor will be a huge benefit for you. Our staff are friendly, highly trained and genuinely care for you.

At home we advise you always discuss your worries, stress and achievements with your family. It is important to have someone you can talk to within this sector on a personal level. You focus so much time taking care of other’s, when you are at home, why not let those who love you take care of you!

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