As a dietitian and nutritionist, Alex Sherman has come across plenty of nurses and midwives dealing with the brunt of late-night shift work, and the impact that has on their nutrition and energy levels.
Ms Sherman, a Victorian based Clinical Dietitian says when consulting with her nursing and midwifery clients, she often has to tailor her advice around the logistics of unusual hours and working patterns.
“I do have to think practically about night shift, digestion, ensuring that they do have consistent meal times,” when giving advice Ms Sherman explained.
Ms Sherman says night shift has a significant effect on a person’s body, with sleep hormones (including melatonin), hunger hormones, blood glucose levels and insulin levels all affected.
Additionally, COVID-related infection control measures over the past year have made even basic adjustments to nutrition more difficult in some circumstances, she said.
“No food, or their drink bottles, have been allowed on the ward… so that does stop me from saying, ‘Oh, just keep a snack in your pocket, or keep your water bottle on you,’” Ms Sherman explained.
It creates a series of challenges for her nursing and midwifery clients who work in demanding and complex health settings.
“It’s a really difficult job, and I am in awe of how they have to shift from night to day like that,” she said.
“I think I could tell any patient a list of nutritional recommendations, whatever’s wrong with them or whatever they need support with, but taking into account nursing gives it that whole other element of environmental factors.”
With this in mind, Ms Sherman has made a list of general recommendations for nurses and midwives looking to up their energy intake with some healthy foods while working in clinical settings:
- Oats/porridge: “Oats are a low GI carbohydrate, meaning they release energy much slower, allowing a feeling of fullness for longer, and assist with people who may need a lot of energy stretched out over longer periods of time.”
- Mixed nuts (unsalted is best) or trail mix for on-the-go snacking: “Nuts are rich in omega-3 unsaturated fats and protein, keeping us feeling full and giving us longer lasting energy. It’s also a handy snack to have around – you can grab a small pack on the go if you’re under the pump.”
- Yoghurt/cottage cheese: “A high protein snack signals satiety (feeling full) and maintains energy for muscles and cells to function. High protein products like a tub of yoghurt or cottage cheese spread on rice crackers [are great examples of this].”
- Eggs: “Eggs are a great snack on the go or addition to mealtimes. They have a fantastic source of all essential amino acids (proteins), B vitamins and healthy fats. Poached or boiled eggs for brekky with multigrain toast is a great way to start (or finish) your working day.”
- Salmon: “Salmon is a fantastic source of the omega-3s EPA and DHA, giving us essential fatty acids to improve mood, healthy circulation and reduce inflammation. You can cook a fillet for lunch or dinner, or grab a can of Salmon to add to your lunches for a quick and easy option when at work.”
- Water: “Water is the main component of our blood and carries our nutrients around our bodies for us, aiding in absorption and energy balance. If we don’t drink enough water, not only do we feel thirsty, but we feel fatigued. Aim to drink as consistently as possible at home and on shift.”
If you require more specific or tailored advice for your situation, please consult with your regular GP or health professional.
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