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Surviving Spinning Plates: You Must Eat

In my 17 years as a nurse, the most common phrase I have heard from new graduates, even experienced nurses, is "I didn't have time to eat."

That's crazy.  Not eating when you're working is not only not good for  you, it's not good for your patients.  Here's why.

We're back to pathophysiology again.  When blood sugar drops, so does your energy, your short term memory, and your general ability to think clearly.  Think about what that does to your patient care skills.  You might miss important details, forget to check something, be late with a medication, any number of possibilities. That puts your patient at risk.

When you're working in a good place, your co-workers, the charge nurse, and the manager should make sure you get a chance to take a break and eat something when your working your shift.  In fact, they have to; it's the law (at least in the US).  Sure, nurses don't get long breaks for meals and can rarely go off site, but they do get breaks.  They are allowed to take breaks to eat, to drink, to go to the bathroom.   And yes, it is absurd that I even have to write that.

My own strategy for a guaranteed 15 minutes of time when I could sit and eat lunch was to eat sometime between 11 and 11:30 in the morning.  Sounds early?  Not really if you consider that work started at 7am.  If I didn't bring lunch, I knew lines in the cafeteria would be short because no one else was eating at that time, making for a quick pick up.  My patients didn't need help getting set up for meals because it wasn't lunchtime yet.  By the time I finished, I knew mid-morning blood sugars would be taken and I could address them with a clear head.  I could power through the rest of the afternoon.  Now, that was a time when it was common for nurses to work 8 hour shifts which, I can assure you, are grossly under appreciated these days.

This is just one example.  You'll have to figure out what works for you and your metabolism.  Nights are also trickier.  That one you'll have to test out until you know what works best for you.

So make sure you eat something, at some point when you're working, with protein and complex carbs that will last you the rest of your shift.  Your body and your patients are depending on it.

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