Tips for Getting Through 12-Hour Nursing Shifts

Last Updated on October 31, 2023

Two nurses smiling and talking in hallway during their nursing shift

Being a nurse is one of the most selfless and rewarding career choices out there, but it can also be demanding at times. Many other professions have a typical eight-hour workday, but in healthcare there are often 12-hour nursing shifts. However, longer shifts can be challenging and can quickly lead to burnout! To combat this, explore six tips and tricks to help you survive 12-hour nursing shifts and avoid burnout.

6 Ways to Survive 12-Hour Nursing Shifts

As a nurse, you strive to give your patients the best care possible, but in order to do that, you also need to take care of yourself. From dressing for success to prioritizing rest, here are a few ways to overcome 12-hour nursing shifts!

Get Plenty of Sleep The Night Before Your Shift

Getting a good night’s sleep the night before your 12-hour nursing shift can make or break how your day goes. It’s important to listen to your body and do what works best for you and your schedule. In order to ensure you get enough sleep, finding a relaxing nighttime routine may prove beneficial.

A diagram with examples on how to survive 12-hour nursing shifts, including a restful night, healthy snacks, a routine, comfy shoes, take breaks, and stay hydrated
Things like staying well-rested can help during 12-hour nursing shifts!

You can prepare for the night before by selecting and laying out your clothes, packing your lunch, journaling, or listening to relaxing music or other methods of self-care to help create a productive routine. Creating a calming and productive routine the night before your shift can help you to feel prepared for the day ahead.

Getting enough hours of sleep is also crucial if you work the night shift. It’s important that you give your body the time to adjust to your new sleeping schedule. After your long night shifts, be sure to find a routine that helps you unwind, stay organized, and get plenty of rest.

Pack Healthy Snacks

Being on your feet all day can make it difficult for you to be able to consume a proper diet or drink an adequate amount of water. Packing a healthy lunch with snacks will help you to stay moving and energized throughout your shift.

As a nurse, you don’t always get to take a break when you want due to patient needs or potential emergency cases that require your immediate and consistent attention. Having snacks that can be eaten quickly and on the go are important. Snacks such as nuts, cheese sticks, yogurt, granola, protein bars, and shakes are all great ways to keep your energy up throughout your 12-hour nursing shifts.

With your busy schedule, it can be easy to forget to drink an adequate amount of water during the day. Even if you aren’t thirsty, be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water a day to stay hydrated and feeling great. If you need an added boost of energy, grab a cup of coffee or tea.

Stay Organized Through Your Shift

Staying organized throughout your shift is essential. With a lot of moving parts and patient information to stay on top of, it’s important to have an organizational method to help mitigate any issues and to keep your shift running as smoothly as possible. Arriving a few minutes early to your shift can go a long way in helping prepare for the long day ahead. Look up your patients and pay close attention to tasks that may need to be completed throughout the day.

Keep all your paperwork organized and set yourself reminders for important tasks that need to be completed. Use your phone, smartwatch, or just simply write them on a piece of paper underlined or highlighted.

Dress For Comfort

Most facilities may require that you wear a specific work uniform, but don’t let that stop you from dressing comfortably. Long, 12-hour nursing shifts may require you to be constantly on the move so you’ll want to be comfortable doing it. Investing in the right shoes is essential for long days on your feet. Wearing ill-fitted or unsupportive shoes can lead to back pain, chafing, blisters, and sore feet.

Wearing compression stockings can help for long days on your feet by helping to improve circulation, minimize inflammation and muscle pain, and reduce the risk of developing varicose veins. The provided comfort should help you to be able to move around with more ease.

>Related: Discover the Best Scrubs for Nurses and Healthcare Professionals!

Stay Busy and Be a Team Player

If you are all caught up on your work, lend a helping hand to another nurse or staff member. Those staff members may return the favor when you are in a time of need. Keeping busy will also make your shift go by quicker. Before you know it, you will be giving a hand-off report to the next nurse and on your way home.

Another great way to keep yourself moving is to count your steps. Most phones or smartwatches have the capability to help you keep track of your steps throughout your 12-hour nursing shifts. A common goal is 10,000 steps per day, but set an attainable goal to get moving! If your step count is low, take a quick walk. The steps will add up and keep you healthy mentally and physically. Keeping yourself healthy and in good shape can help you give better care to your patients.

Take Breaks During 12-Hour Nursing Shifts

Having the ability to take a break may be far and few between. Stepping away to the break room or other area of your facility will allow you to regroup and recharge. Doing some quick stretches to taking walk outside for some fresh air to watching a funny video or laughing with a friend can help you to feel refreshed. These moments throughout your shift are important to help you catch your breath and are well deserved.

A career in nursing may lead to different types of shifts. In order to provide the best possible care for your patients, you need to also take care of yourself physically and mentally by preparing before, during, and after your shift to be the most productive you can be.

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