Ideas to help midwives through NIGHT SHIFTS
the past couple of weeks I’ve been on night shifts – hence my temporary disappearance from Twitter . I have been forced to practice self-care and be mindful of my own health and wellbeing in order to not only survive night shifts but also to ensure the women in my care were kept safe. A huge part of my role is to support women and families and also to be a team player by helping and listening to my colleagues of all disciplines. Factor into this the additional pressure like teaching my body to sleep in the day and stay up all night – all this has an adverse effect on causes on my hormones and body physiology – so it must be the same for any midwife working the night shift.
I try my best to visit women who may still be on the postnatal ward (ones that I have cared for in labour or met antenatally) to offer a debriefing session and go through parts of the birth they may have forgotten- I find this helps me as much as it helps them . Women become tired during long nights of labour and may forget their own strength during labour and birth so I like to remind them. As midwives we must make a firm relationship foundation with the woman and her birth partner(s) and we must also display love for our job and show it’s something we do because we enjoy it not because we have to – when did you last show that you love your job? Women want to know that you care about them and getting food and drink in the middle of the night is a real challenge but I take it firmly onboard . I scour the fridges for left over unopened in date sandwiches- dash to the vending machine to buy a packet of fruit pastilles or a small bar of chocolate , offer my pre-packed fruit salad, make toast and encourage food in labour – women use on average 150 kcal an hour in labour and it’s important to explain why you are encouraging eating . Women don’t want to face a labour with a midwife who hasn’t slept or who is complaining about being at work . My philosophy the past two weeks has been to
- Get some sunlight every day before bed
- Eat a meal before work that will sustain me through the night – a balance of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables
- Laugh with colleagues – I am quite well known ay work for my gangnam style dance so one night I was on the postnatal ward I danced in the office – the future midwives face was picture !!
- Understand why I may have bouts of moodiness
- Speak to a friend every other day
- Walk my dog pre-bed and pre-work to ensure I am getting exercise and fresh air
- Reduce my screen time – that includes Google and Twitter – I am on screen time at work with the maternity system online and screen time can affect our circadian rhythm.
Don’t underestimate how hard it is for me to get in from work and drive to the beach – I struggle, but I have noticed a definite change in myself during these nights and I am sure its because I have exercised prior to sleeping . I have also used some aromatherapy and mindfulness (which I do every single day – nights or days )
I prepared my fridge – chicken , vegetables , pre-packed fruit portions , cheese for protein in the night , and faced my dislike of drinking water . I googled jet-lag and circadian rhythm to help me face up to how my body might react and went in for the positive approach . I took the decision to walk on the beach with my Labrador puppy Buddie post each shift and eat my favourite breakfast sat outside my favourite cafe before I went to sleep. These positive activities helped me to switch off from my shift , gave me a sense of wellbeing and also helped me to interact with others before I became a hermit for the day . Once home in bed, all curtains were closed and all lights switched off – as a visual hint to ‘popper inners’ those friends of mine who I adore as they pop in to visit me unannounced and I do love that but not on night shifts. I also prayed that my neighbours would be quiet and that their dog wouldn’t bark too much – it worked !!
Night shifts are special for midwives , the hustle and bustle of the hospital is turned down , the ward round is vanquished, the tea trolley is ever present and I can drink tea in the birth room with the families .
After night shifts it’s ok to feel tired and nap in the day – listen to your body carefully . Take time to recover post nights – don’t push your body beyond its limits thinking you are doing it a favour – you aren’t !
I’d like to dedicate this blog to all the midwives who work night shifts – and especially Olivia and Jude as they often discuss the effects of nights with me – thank you to all NHS nightworkers for all you do .
Further reading and resources
information on The BODY CLOCK
What is sleep drive ? Sleep drive and your body clock
Try a few of my ideas and see if they help your night shifts – I hope they do .
With kindness & midwifery love ❤️
Your friend Jenny