Tips for Getting Through a Long Nursing Shift

Are you looking for creative ways to make it through your upcoming 12-hour nursing shift? If you dread the days when you’re on your feet at work for 12 hours at a time, here are a few tips that can help you get through those grueling shifts with a little more grace and a little less fatigue.

  1. Refuel Wisely

When you’re constantly on the go, it can be tempting to grab a quick snack whenever you have the chance. Unfortunately, without proper preparation, you’re more likely to reach for that tempting bag of Doritos or a sinful iced cookie from the hallway vending machine. While quick snacks like these can provide a temporary boost of energy by spiking your blood sugar levels, within minutes or hours they will most likely leave you feeling depleted and even worse off than you were before.

If you don’t have access to healthy foods from the cafeteria during your shift, make sure you pack some healthy, energizing snacks before you leave to work. The extra time and effort you put into food preparation will pay off in the long run as you are able to fuel your body throughout the day with foods that nourish you and give you strength. Pack a good mix of healthy vegetables, fruits and complex carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar stable and your mind clear while you tackle your work shift.

  1. Dress for the Occasion

Yes, you probably have specific work attire that must be worn on your shift, but you probably have some freedom to choose your footwear. When it comes to standing for 12 hours with very few breaks, it is worth it to invest in a quality pair of shoes. You may even wish to visit a podiatrist and be fitted with special inserts that will give your feet the support they need on the most grueling days.

In addition to comfortable and supportive footwear, some nurses find that medical-grade compression hose helps to improve circulation in their feet, ankles and legs. Try some out and see if they help you combat muscle fatigue during your longest shifts.

  1. Decide Whether Caffeine Is Right for You

Some nurses find that indulging in the occasional caffeinated drink is the only thing that keeps them awake and alert during long shifts. Others find that caffeine disrupts their natural sleep cycle and makes it more difficult to achieve restful sleep even after work hours. Make sure you listen to your body when deciding whether or not caffeine stimulation is helpful or hurtful to you.

  1. Avoid Doing Nothing

While you will most likely have very little downtime during your 12-hour shift, if you do come across a short slow stretch, try to keep yourself busy. If you allow yourself to sit still for too long, fatigue and sleepiness is likely to set in, and it may be difficult to recover when work picks back up again. Instead of lounging in a chair, use your down time to restock supplies or help out in any way you can. Doing so will help you avoid a sudden drop in energy and your efforts to help out will be appreciated by your colleagues.

  1. Get a Good Rest the Night Before

Try to get a good night’s sleep if you know you have a 12-hour shift coming up. Doing so will help you feel more refreshed, energetic and ready to tackle the next day’s responsibilities.

The 12-hour nursing shift, though dreaded by many nurses, doesn’t have to be the battle of wills you are accustomed to. With adequate preparation and vigilance, you will find that your 12-hour shifts will become much easier to tackle.  For more nursing tips and advice, visit the Denver School of Nursing blog.

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