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Maine nurses develop strategy for staying awake and alert at work

A group of nurses from Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center ditches the coffee for something more invigorating

BANGOR, Maine — It's no secret that being a nurse is hard work.

A group of Maine nurses has recently started doing something to combat their long and sometimes stressful work shifts. 

Michelle Duarte, Jessica Alicea-Santiago and Emily Grace Nixon all work in the cardiology department at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. The three women say they were losing energy throughout their 12-hour hospital shifts, and no amount of caffeine was quite doing the trick!

Their solution:  put down the coffee and find a quiet corner of the hospital to stretch, go through a yoga flow, and sometimes even do some strength training. 

Duarte says, "a lot of people describe it as a runner's high. It's much better than a cup of coffee which just raises your heart rate for around 15 minutes. It makes me feel revived!"

In addition to being a cardiology nurse, Duarte is a Bangor-based yoga instructor. She leads outdoor yoga classes which are organized through her Facebook page: Namaste Calm-- Yoga with Michelle.

Nixon says, "We need to move our bodies in normal ways. Sitting at computers is absolutely killing us! Sitting is the new smoking-- haven't you heard?" 

Alicea-Santiago says, "Yoga, to me, is very invigorating. It makes the day and the shift go much more smoothly and feel complete."

The nurses say the practice helps them reset, re-focus, and return to their patients with newfound energy. 

Alicea-Santiago says, "Having little breaks is essential not only for myself but also for my patients."

Nixon has worked in hospitals on the west coast and says this type of practice is normal there.

"In California, this kind of thing is almost regular," says Nixon. "They provide a meditation room, they have a yoga room... it's so nice to see it trickling into the east coast."

Their newfound habit is inspiring other workers at the hospital...

Duarte says, "People walk by and most of them are like, wow, I need to do that!"

If you don't think you can take 15 minutes out of your work schedule for a quick workout, there are still healthy habits you can practice at work. 

The American Heart Association suggests standing while you take phone calls, take the stairs instead of an elevator, and perhaps rethink the way you get to work-- consider biking instead of driving a few times a week.