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Written by Cloe Sloan
I remember it like it was yesterday. I hopped out of bed and quickly changed into my scrubs, eager, yet nervous to start my day shift as a care aide. I finished packing my lunch and decided to glance briefly at my watch before heading out for the day. I couldn’t believe it - my pre-shift anxiety had gotten the best of me that I woke up four hours before my alarm!
When talking with other health care workers, it seems as though pre-shift anxiety is extremely common, yet I don’t feel like it is talked about enough.
Thankfully, I was able to learn from my experiences and come up with a few tips to help calm those nerves and have a successful shift!
Here are a few tips:
Have a routine before your shift. Go to sleep early, do your self-care routine (have a bubble bath, put on a face mask, or drink a hot cup of tea). Feeling relaxed before going to sleep will allow you to have a much better night’s rest. Prepare your outfit, pack your lunch and bag the night before so you’re ready to go in the morning and have less to stress about.
I always get nervous about the little things when first starting a job or haven’t worked in awhile. It helps me to make a list of all the things I am nervous about, and cross out the things I can’t control and encircle the things I can. I look at the things that I encircled and think about ways that I can ease my fears. When I first started as a care aide last summer, I had my orientation days at a very specific entrance and I was terrified at finding it and getting there on time. The night before, I drove there and found the specific entrance so that in the morning I would feel more confident about where to go. My pre-shift anxiety didn’t go away completely but it lessened it significantly.
Pre-shift anxiety often stems from negative self-talk. For example, saying things like: “I can’t do this” or “I don’t know anything” will only add to the stress you’re already feeling. It’s not easy but when we reframe our mindset and say things such as “I’m looking forward to learning new skills,” and “I can’t wait to help others out today,” we are setting ourselves up for success.
Hopefully, you will quickly be able to find co-workers in your unit who are supportive and who will help you out when you need it. Ask them all your questions; they know that we don’t know everything and are nervous. Remind yourself that it’s better to ask a million questions rather than make a big mistake.
These tips have helped me throughout my clinical and work shifts. My pre-shift anxiety still isn’t completely gone and I’m not sure if it will ever go away, but it definitely is minimized when I follow these tips.
Starting a new job is hard, but you’re coming into the field with the latest knowledge and resources, making you an asset to your team. Best of luck!