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If you’re an offender health nurse, you’ll be used to the effects of shift life. Whether you’re starting early in the morning, working late at night or even managing night shifts, it can be extremely difficult to co-ordinate a healthy work-life balance when you’re continually working different hours. It can be even harder if you add in family life as well.

How can those working within offender healthcare combine irregular shift patterns with family life?

The most important thing of all is to be organised. You’ll need to operate your weekly diary with military precision to ensure that you’re giving your all at home, and at work.

Find a good support system

Having a family can add a lot of chaos to your routine. As well as focusing upon getting yourself ready for work, you’ll need to surround yourself with a good support system who will be able to help you with the necessary school runs/pick ups whilst you are working.

If you have reliable childcare and/or friends or family who are on-hand to cope with any emergencies, then you’ll find it much easier to reduce your stress levels and enjoy a better work/life balance.

Communication with your family is also important – if you’ve just finished a hard night shift, you’ll need to talk to your children (in an age appropriate way) to help them understand exactly why they cannot disturb you when you are asleep at 11am, or why you may not be there to tuck them in at night.

Some nurses find that home bulletin boards are a great way to leave notes and messages for loved ones so that families feel together even when they haven’t had much face-to-face interaction. Text messages and voice notes are also a great way to facilitate communication with your loved ones throughout the day.

Use home technology to your advantage

If you work irregular shifts then you’ll know how difficult it can be to plan your life – after all, even small tasks like completing the food shopping can be much harder if you don’t know what time you’ll be home. You may find using home assistant technology (such as an Amazon Echo/Google Home) could assist you. You can use them to store notes or reminders, add food to your shopping list of even set reminders to record the latest must-see drama from the TV!

These technologies are more affordable than ever before and are designed to automate many of the hard-pressed tasks that you simply don’t have time to do. You can access them via your phone or your tablet, making them much easier when you’re on the move.

Take advantage of meal planning

As a nurse, you’ll be aware of how important nutrition is to overall health and wellbeing, so it’s important that you try to eat a healthy and balanced diet as much as possible. It can be tempting to reach for a ready meal, or a sugary snack or even a large dose of caffeine to help kickstart your day when you’ve been working nights for a while, but it’s not the healthiest choice for your body.

There are many organisations which now offer healthy and nutritious meals direct to your door which you may find makes your life easier. Or you may prefer to spend one afternoon a week preparing several days’ worth of food so it’s all to hand. Batch cooking and freezing extra portions of meals could give you and your loved ones a delicious dinner in just minutes.

Why not read our recent guide for how to stay healthy when working busy shifts?

Take the time to monitor your health

Those who work shift patterns are at more likely to report poor health than those who work the traditional 9-5 working routine. Research has shown that shift workers are more likely to be obese, suffer from chronic fatigue, increased likelihood of diabetes and even greater risk of heart disease. It is therefore imperative that you do take a few moments every day to monitor your health and ensure that your stressful role isn’t affecting you mentally and physically.

There are a wide range of apps available which can help you to monitor your overall health. The iPhone has an inbuilt ‘health’ app which can record your blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, sleep patterns and activity levels. You can also use apps like Calm or Headspace which will automatically send you daily reminders to spend a few moments de-stressing and un-winding.

As a nurse, you’ll know how important it is to take care of yourself and monitor your own health. With ‘burnout’ at an all-time high, it’s vital that you do prioritise your own health and wellbeing to ensure that you’re looking after yourself.

Do you have any tips or advice for how to combine family life with irregular shift patterns? If you’ve got any useful strategies that you would like to share with our community, please let us know using the comments box below.
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