How Do Nurses Stay Sharp? Tips for Keeping Your Mind Agile

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Ever watch a senior adult (or maybe even your grandparents) diligently solve their crossword puzzles? It’s almost as if they were collaborating with NASA on a new space exploration plan—they are jet-focused on their task. And honestly, we think our beloved senior citizens are on to something. That’s because mind games, such as crossword puzzles, can help shield against an aging mind and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

With all of this in mind, one of the best pursuits you can encourage for your patients and yourself while working as a registered nurse (RN) is to keep your mind sharp. That is to say, since nursing requires a high level of daily cognitive functioning, having a keen mind is more important than ever. 

Are you a nurse and feeling a little hazy lately on the job? Don’t fret just yet! Read on for some excellent tips on how to improve your mental wellness that will help keep your mind clear and agile while on shift. 

Mind Games and Brain Teasers for Mental Clarity

Our senior adult population knows that playing puzzles is the key to a fountain of youth—particularly for the mind. That’s because research supports the idea that individuals who consistently engage in stimulating cognitive tasks are protecting their brains from aging. So what do these mind puzzles look like? While crossword puzzles are classic brain games, you don’t have to start having the Sunday paper delivered to your door just yet. In fact, there are plenty of brain training games available online that you can download straight onto your phone or tablet. Some of the most effective apps and puzzles we have found are Sudoku and Luminosity. Both focus on training your memory and require the user to hone in on cognitive functioning such as attention, speed, and problem-solving. And while there are many modern mind-stimulating apps and activities on the web, we still like the idea of a vintage crossword puzzle a day to keep the doctor away. As a matter of fact, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers a daily crossword on its website. Challenge yourself and check it out here. 

A Good Night’s Rest


Eating right, getting enough exercise, and engaging in mind puzzles all contribute to a sharper mind. However, without a good night’s rest, the mind won’t have the opportunity to restore. That is to say, practicing good sleep hygiene is fundamental for a high-functioning mind. In fact, overworked and fatigued nurses may be at higher risk of making medical errors. 

We know that getting enough sleep restores cognitive functioning and supports memory, problem-solving, and judgment. Yet, many nurses have a hard time establishing a healthy sleep routine. One of the first steps you can take is to get in touch with your circadian rhythm. This syncing can involve coordinating your daily rhythm with natural light instead of artificial light and exposing yourself to at least thirty minutes of natural sunlight a day. It also means limiting screen time before bed and ensuring your bedroom is cool and dark. Furthermore, switching from full-time nursing to per diem nursing can be a great way to take control of your nursing schedule and get enough sleep between shifts. 

For more ideas on how to get good sleep as a nurse, you can check out our best tips for getting sleep as a PRN nurse here. 

Stay Up-to-Date and Educated 

Ever remember visiting a doctor’s office and saying to yourself, “They are so old-fashioned.”? The medical world is fast-paced and changes daily; subsequently, it can sometimes be challenging for medical professionals to stay abreast of medical innovation and advancement. With that said, the education you received during nursing school may not align with current medical views. Moreover, you may want to brush up on rudimentary nursing skills you haven’t used or thought about for a while. In addition, one of the best ways to keep your mind informed is to read up on current events, subscribe to healthcare newsletters, or earn a new specialized certification. Staying up-to-date in a medical setting will definitely keep your mind sharp as a knife. 

Build Friendships 

Whether you are a full-time staff RN or a PRN nurse, building a support network as a nurse is important for a healthy mind. As a matter of fact, making and maintaining friendships not only improves overall mental well-being but can actually extend your lifespan. But science doesn’t really need to tell us how beneficial having a few friends to lean on is. While working as a nurse in a high-pressure environment—having friends just makes sense. 

Therefore, if you have recently picked up a shift as a PRN nurse, introduce yourself to the team! Saying hi in a new work environment will help break the ice. Additionally, if an invitation arises from a colleague for a coffee date or an after-hour cocktail (or mocktail), say yes! Putting yourself out there and building relationships at work can help foster a strong support network. Ultimately, having a few shoulders to lean on and ears to listen to you when the stress of nursing gets a bit much will help keep your mind in good shape. If you want a few more tips on establishing connections at work, you can check out how to make friends as a per diem nurse here. 

A Sharp Mind Is a Sound Mind

Your mind is truly your greatest tool in life. Keeping it sharp will keep you young and agile in life and career. We understand that some days will be more challenging than others. After all, a bad night’s sleep and feeling low on motivation is a normal part of being a human. In the long run, however, your mind will thank you if you can begin to incorporate daily brain-stimulating activities. And who knows, you may even become a mind-puzzle fanatic and join a crossword fan meetup—yes, it’s really a thing! So, at the end of the day, what will you do to keep your mind sharp? 

But really—we want to know—what helps you stay focused as a nurse? Leave a comment below with what you do to keep your mind clear and nimble. 

Written by Jenna Elizabeth

Jenna Hall is a freelance writer, yoga teacher, and travel fanatic with over ten years of experience in professional blogging. She graduated from California State University, Dominguez Hills, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Shortly after graduation, Jenna headed to Latin America with a small leather journal, a disposable camera, and a pipe dream of being a travel writer on the go. After making a pit stop in Guatemala and receiving her 200-Hour Hatha Yoga Certification, Jenna was picked up by a Portland, Oregon-based active wear company to write for their blog on travel and wellness. She returned to the states, joined the corporate world for a stint, and then in 2014, Jenna permanently moved to South America to work at a local non-profit in Cochabamba, Bolivia to help with grant writing. She’s now published in several online publications and is known for gobbling up Bolivian street food until her tummy hurts, making sassy jokes in Spanish, and attempting to dance Salsa like a local. Clearly, Jenna has found her place in the world and continues to write and live a simple life in Bolivia with her husband and two kids.

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