How to Keep Up Professionalism, Even When the Hours Are Long

In the healthcare field, hours are long – ranging from 12-16 hour shifts, sometimes with overtime or very little time in between shifts. This creates a work environment conducive to sleep-deprivation, stress, anxiety, aggression and other negative effects.

In healthcare, though, it is important not to allow that kind of work environment to impact your professionalism. With patients depending on your care, and coworkers depending on your help, you must handle  yourself with a professional demeanor even when the hours are long.

How can you do that?

Get enough sleep. It sounds easy, but we know it’s not. Still, try to make yourself sleep between shifts. It can be hard to wind down, especially when you’re working different shifts from one week to the next, but try to find a relaxation technique that works for you, whether it be drinking hot tea, turning on classical music or even doing a little yoga.

Eat well. Many nurses find their lunch breaks came and went without ever taking it. Try not to let this happen to you. You must eat to maintain your energy levels and stave off hunger. Make healthy choices rather than fast food, and try to make your meals protein-packed to hold you over longer.

Build relationships. You’re probably going to see your coworkers more than your friends or family, so make the effort to build solid relationships with them. It’s called a “work family” for a reason, and you’ll be relieved to have someone to lean on or even just laugh with during these long stretches.

Find a way to cope with stress. In healthcare environments, many situations can be high-stakes. Find a way to cope with the stress, even if you only have 10 seconds to count backwards and take deep breaths, or just enough time to squeeze the stress ball at the nurse’s station.

Learn what makes you tick. If there is a certain coworker, boss, patient or situation that sets off a fire alarm in your mind – figure out what it is. Then, try to figure out why they set you off, and if there is a way to deal with it constructively. Holding in negative feelings towards a certain thing can only tear down your professionalism from the inside out. Is there someone else that can handle this task? A conversation you need to have with your boss? Pinpoint the problem and try to solve it – you can even ask your work family for help!

There are a lot of other tricks and tips that people employ in themselves to maintain professionalism in the workplace, even when the shifts are long and exhausting.

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