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Tips for Getting Through 12 Hour Shifts

As a new nurse, it can be challenging to adjust to working 12-hour shifts.

The days can seem long, but you’ll find yourself adjusting to the new schedule over time and with these tips.

Bring Snacks

You’ll be doing a lot of running around, and there’s a good chance that you’ll need an energy boost between meal breaks.

Snacks are the perfect solution.

But not just any snack.

You want something that will provide sustainable energy.

Avoid sugary candy bars, and instead reach for healthier snacks, like granola bars or protein bars.

These individually wrapped bars are easy to carry and eat on the go.

Something with nuts and fruit will provide you with the quick energy boost you need and the fiber and fats to keep going without a crash.

It’s not always possible to get back to your lunch bag for a quick bite.

The solution? Keep a snack in your scrubs pocket for when you need it.

That way, you’ll never feel like you’re running on empty.

Take Care of Your Body

Nursing is a physically demanding job.

To avoid injury, you need to take precautions.

This is especially important to avoid back injuries.

Before each shift, do some stretches to loosen up.

This will help to prepare you for the day ahead.

At work, be sure to use proper lifting procedures.

Paying attention to how you’re lifting patients out of bed is especially important to avoid back injuries.

If necessary, use a mechanical lift.

Despite taking all the proper precautions, it’s still possible to hurt yourself on the job.

If this happens, make sure you report the incident.

Seek treatment for any injuries - even simple muscle strains - to prevent the problem from getting worse.

Compression Socks Help

You might think of compression socks as something for patients, not nurses.

But that’s not the case.

Compression socks are great for people who spend long hours on their feet, like nurses.

They help to reduce the risk of varicose veins, for starters.

They also improve blood flow and reduce lactic acid build-up, which can help with reducing fatigue.

If you notice that your ankles swell up by the end of a shift, or if your calves are sore, give compression socks a try.

You’ll feel better, and those long shifts won’t be quite so tiring on your legs.

Get Away for a Break

When you can take a break, use the time to reset and refresh for the rest of your shift.

The best way to do this is to get away from the unit.

This could be the cafeteria, a lunchroom, or outside.

The important thing is that you aren’t taking your breaks at the nursing station.

It’s hard to feel like you’re on a break when you never step away from your work.

Take your mind off work for a few minutes during your break by doing something like reading, listening to music, or going for a walk around the hospital grounds.

Get Good Shoes

Breaks aren’t always possible.

There will be days when you’re so busy that you don’t have time to relax or catch your breath.

On days like this, having a good pair of shoes is important.

They should, of course, fit properly.

If not, you’ll end up with sore feet and blisters.

But you should expect more from your shoes than just a proper fit.

They should provide stability, support, and cushioning.

Investing in shoes made specifically for walking is a smart choice.

Go to a specialty athletic footwear store and get a proper fitting done.

A specialty store will analyze your feet and your stride to suggest the best footwear for you.

If you have trouble finding a pair of shoes that fits properly, consider getting fitted for custom orthotics.

Also, replace your shoes every six to nine months or once they start to get worn out.

Get Enough Sleep

Nursing is both physically and mentally demanding.

There’s a lot to learn, and you have to be moving around all day while trying to remember it.

By the end of your shift, you’ll be tired.

To perform at your best, you’ll need to get a full night’s rest.

It can be tough when you don’t have much time in the day to do everything you want.

You’ll need to practice some self-control and tell yourself that it’s time for sleep.

It might be tough when you’re enjoying your after-work time, but you’ll be glad you did when you’re not falling asleep at work.

Prepare the Day Before

Get yourself completely ready for work before you go to bed.

Lay out your uniform or outfit, prepare your lunch and snacks, and get your things together.

You’ll feel less rushed before your shift, and you’ll be less likely to forget something, like your lunch.

This preparation includes ignoring your uniform, as well.

Stay Hydrated

Being on your feet for long hours will require plenty of fluids.

You’ll need to make an effort to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Staying hydrated will help keep your energy levels up and your mind clear, which will help you be a better nurse.

Bringing a reusable water bottle with you can really help with staying hydrated.

It gives you a constant visual reminder that you should be drinking water.

It’s also an easy way to keep track of which water bottle is yours when you have a unique one.

Take a Late Break

If you find your shifts to be long, try pushing your break back to a later time.

Taking your break after the halfway point in your shift will make the rest of your shift seem to go by quicker.

Having a snack before your break can help to ward off low energy before eating a proper meal.

Help Out

If you have spare time between tasks, help others with their duties instead of sitting at the nurses station; staying busy will help your shift go by quickly so that your long 12-hour shift doesn’t feel like an eternity.

With these tips and some time, you’ll get used to working 12-hour shifts.

To make sure you’re fully prepared, work toward earning additional certifications.

ProMed Certifications offers a range of online courses and certifications to help you be the best nurse you can possibly be.

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