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Our guide to staying healthy when you’re working busy shifts




As a nurse, doctor or allied health professional you’ll be used to constantly running around trying to look after all your patients and it can feel almost impossible to take a few minutes to look after yourself. For those working overnight, the added complexity of trying to stay awake can make it even harder to cope with the stresses of shift work.

It may seem tempting to pick up a sugary snack from the nearest vending machine if your energy levels are starting to dip, but that’s not the best way to look after yourself.

We’ve spoken to health expert Sam Cleaver, Director of Stoic Performance, who has shared his input into how healthcare professionals can take better care of themselves during busy shifts. As well as sharing his insights into what you should avoid the next time you make a Costa Coffee run, Sam has provided us with a few exclusive breakfast and lunch recipes, which will help boost your energy levels and make you feel fighting fit for the day ahead.

Think about your next Costa coffee order


It’s a proven fact that caffeine is a nurses best friend. After all, when faced with a long shift and a variety of patients to care for, that boost of hot Java is enough to keep you going. With Costa franchises found within most NHS hospitals, it can be easy to fall into the habit of ordering a raspberry and white chocolate muffin to accompany your Feta and Tomato pasta salad and your large Latte. However, the impact of a daily Costa run will not only affect your purse, but it can also significantly effect your waistline.

Sam says: “It’s incredibly easy to pop into your nearest Costa to buy your lunch, but you may be unaware of the calorie consumption involved. An average muffin at Costa comes in at almost 500 calories. Added to a sandwich which could be between 300-400 calories and a latte or cappuccino which ranges between 200-300 calories, and you’ve suddenly consumed over 1,000 calories just on your lunch.”

“Clearly doctors, nurses and other frontline healthcare staff spend a lot of time walking around the hospital wards. As a result, their average exercise levels will be naturally higher than most office-based workers, but it’s still important to be mindful of many calories we are eating to ensure we remain at a healthy weight.”

To help people understand how to make healthier choices when visiting Costa, Sam has developed a unique “Costa Survival Guide” which breaks down the nutritional content across the Costa menu.

Make sure you’re getting enough sleep


If you’re regularly working night shifts, then the change in shift patterns can cause issues when sleeping. After all, if your body clock is all over the place, is it any wonder that you constantly feel tired?

Sam says: “Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself healthy. Your nutrition and your stress levels can have a big impact upon your quality of sleep, so it’s no surprise that many healthcare professionals say that they have issues sleeping. It may sound obvious, but to improve your sleep, avoid drinking any caffeine 2-3 hours before you go to bed, and try to leave your phones/tablets downstairs where possible.”

“If you work on multiple shift patterns, I would recommend investing in a daylight alarm clock where possible. These work by gradually incorporating light into the room so that you wake up gradually rather than being startled by an alarm. It will support your body and help you feel much more awake and ready for the day ahead.”

Think about what you’re eating


We all know the facts and science behind healthy eating, and nursing staff will be more aware than most of the value of good nutrition. But when you have less than 10 minutes to sit down and eat your lunch in peace, it’s no surprise that clinical staff may reach for the nearest sugary snack to perk them up when they are in need of an energy boost.

Bringing in your lunch from home can also cause many challenges, after all, we’ve all worked with that one colleague who insists on heating up a smelly fish pie in the communal microwave! But preparing your lunch or eating a solid breakfast can make you feel much better and ready for a busy shift. Not to mention it could save valuable money!

To help you on your way, Sam has exclusively provided Sanctuary Health with two recipes from his “Stoic Recipe Book” that you can prepare ahead of time and easily store in your staff fridge. Each recipe has been designed to be packed full of protein and carbohydrates to keep you full and give you enough energy to last the rest of your shift.

First up is a Salmon Quinoa Bowl...



Followed by a Lime, Shrimp and Avocado Salad...



If you would like to benefit from more healthy lunchtime recipes that you can take to work, why not download the free ‘Stoic Recipe Book’

At Sanctuary, we work hard to support the needs of our candidates, whether that’s giving advice on how to avoid back pain when working on a shift or providing suggestions on how to save money. If you have any questions about how you can improve your career, why not pick up the phone and give one of our trained consultants a call?
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