Working Mom Health Tips For 12 Hour Shifts

Working Mom Health Tips For 12 Hour Shifts

This post is about working mom health tips for nurses working long 12 hour+ shifts.

Preparing for 12 hour shifts as a registered nurse requires some prearranged ground work and organization at home to ensure my day starts off on the right foot. As a working mom, I know I will be gone for a large chunk of time so I do my best to make sure things are properly set up at home the day before.

Additionally, as a ER nurse I know how important it is that I take good care of myself so I can continue to give the best possible care to my family and patients.  After all, I can’t expect others to listen to my health education if I don’t take my own advice and stay healthy too.  No excuses!

Working Mom sitting on kitchen floor with son

(This post contains affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

My top 4 priorities for keeping myself and my family healthy as a nurse:

#1. Grocery shop and prepare all meals in advance

I grocery shop every three days so I am able to prepare meals for my toddlers and for each of my 12 hour shifts at the hospital in advance.  To avoid scrambling at the last minute I always make sure everything is ready and packaged to go the night before.

I prepare several options for the kids breakfasts, lunch and dinner including:

  • Avocado or almond toast
  • Bananas, apples, kiwis, various berries
  • Black bean or chick pea pasta
  • Cheese squares
  • Veggies straws with hummus
  • Veggie/fruit smoothies
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Sautéed veggies

In addition, one day per week I make a big batch of quinoa or brown rice and keep it handy in the fridge for quick meal preparation. When I need it, I add veggies, nuts, seeds, dried cranberries, olive oil, tempeh or whatever else I have in the fridge at that moment. This is so convenient because I can whip something up  quickly for my work lunches and I also have it on days I’m home with the kids.

The Nutribullet is by far my favorite meal prep tool.

To say I use it at least twice a day would be an understatement!  I can make everything from veggie smoothies, to salad dressings, to soups and blended coffee drinks.  It makes my life so much easier, especially now that we have kids and time is limited!

The Nutribullet is one of the best inventions of the 21st century I tell you!

I have a vegetable and berry smoothie with 1 tablespoon of Maca powder, flax seed and/or hemp seeds for protein, and acai powder. I alternate my veggies between broccoli, spinach or kale. For the berry part: strawberries, blueberries and raspberries although sometimes I’ll add half a banana or mango.


I also make several mason jars (16oz) of overnight oats on Sundays with a variation of flavors:

  • blueberry/strawberry/raspberry
  • peanut butter and maple
  • banana and walnut
  • almond and raisin

Then I’ll either add ground flax seeds or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefit. And I’ll top with a dash of cinnamon. These make such an easy breakfast to go!

Mason jars make breakfast healthy and easy.

#2. Sleep as much as possible before a 12 hour shift

Let’s be honest, 12 hour shifts usually end up being closer to 14+ at the end of the day.  And, many studies show that working 12 hour shifts is damaging to nurse health due to the length of time that nurses end up working.  In fact, an increased risk of depression, anxiety, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even some cancers have all been researched and publicized.

Since the shifts are not getting shorter anytime soon, the best thing that nurses can do to take care of themselves is rest as much as possible before shifts.  Therefore, I make it a huge priority to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep before shifts.  (This was so much easier before we had kids!)

A few things I use to help me sleep better at night:

    • Eye mask and ear plugs. After having kids I realized that I am am incredibly light sleeper.  In fact, even the slightest noises wake me up in the middle of the night.  Sometimes I have difficulty failing back asleep again, which is so frustrating when I work a 12 hour shift in the morning.
    • Restorative yoga poses. I keep a yoga pillow and a yoga mat right next to my bed that I use for restorative yoga poses about 20 minutes before I try to go to sleep.  It helps me decompress my from my day, check in with myself and put me into a snugly and sleepy mood.

A yoga pillow is great for restorative yoga poses!

I keep a yoga mat next to my bed for early morning and night yoga stretches.

HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! 

#3 Get regular exercise on the off days

I always feel so much better when I get my heart rate up on my days off. The benefits of exercise have been well documented; it is essential for nurse self care.  It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood and decreases stress levels.  Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also helps nurses have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.

Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A yoga session or brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.  Which, in turn, will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.

For me personally, yoga has been a total game changer for my stress levels.  But it’s also great to change up the routine a bit, and I enjoy escaping with my headphones for a run and listening to music.  Whatever you do is great, as long as you actually do it!

A blue tooth headset is great to use for a run or brisk walk.

#4.  Wear compression socks

Those who know me know I’m fanatical about compression socks.  Wearing compression stockings helped me work all the way through two pregnancies and I continue to wear them to this day.  They help keep your legs energized, prevent varicose veins, and keep your ankles and feet from getting so swollen after being on your feet all day.  Plus, they come in the cutest styles now.

Compression socks will save your legs and feet!

Being a nurse and mom is already hard enough.

But with a little preparation and focus on your personal well-being and time management you can be both a healthy nurse and mom and give great care to your patients.  It’s time to focus on nurse self care!

HEY NURSES!  Remember to sign up for your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” E-book in the sign up box below! (scroll down)

Additional Recommended Reading

Working Mom health tips for 12 hour shifts

Simple Stress Management For Nurses

Simple Stress Management For Nurses

(This post about simple stress management for nurses may contain affiliate links. See our disclosure page for more information.)

Nurses are more stressed out then ever.

It is no surprise that prolonged stress damages the body.  Yet many nurses are dealing with unchecked chronic stress for years or even decades.  Still, the passion that many nurses have for helping others drives them to continue forward in their nursing careers.  But who is helping nurses?

The unfortunate truth is that nurses themselves are the one who must take care of themselves first.   Nurse safety and well-being is not being taken seriously by the very own hospitals where we work so hard and strive to give only the very best patient care.   Nationwide, it appears that hospital administrators main priority is making money for the hospital, and the health and well-being of their own nurses doesn’t even make the list.

Nurse Stress Relief And Coping Tips

Do some hospitals see nurses as indispensable?

For some nurses, it may feel like it.  Even I have felt that despite my own dependability, clinical knowledge and positive attitude that it wouldn’t matter in the slightest if I left.    The feeling is disheartening.

For example, I became a per diem nurse after the birth of my first child because a unit director stated that they were “unable” to give me consistent scheduling so I could plan day care for my child.  Per diem nursing gives me flexibility to schedule my days to fit my childcare situation, however, now I have no benefits, no disability, no retirement and no maternity leave – and I had another baby this year!  Needless to say, it was a hyper expensive year for us and caused a lot of stress for me.

But, they knew another nurse would come along and fill my spot.  So why be flexible with my schedule so that I could stay?

I still have a passion for nursing, despite the stress.

Workplace stress in nursing is common.  I am not leaving the profession soon because my children are still very small I still do have a strong desire and passion to help others.  So in the meantime I make stress management a huge priority in my life.

If you are a nurse who feels like me, keep an eye out for nurse burnout symptoms that could be wrecking havoc on your overall health and happiness.  And start taking simple steps to help keep stress in check so you don’t end up as a patient yourself.  Nurses shouldn’t be creating unhealthy habits to cope with their stressful nursing careers.  And if it becomes too much where your health is seriously being effected in a negative way, then consider other nursing options away from the bedside.  Nurse, you need to take care of yourself first!

Simple Stress Management Techniques For Nurses:

1.  Watch a funny movie

When was the last time you had a good laugh?  Do you even remember how good it feels to laugh out loud?  Watching a funny movie is a great way to passively  tune out and focus on something more light-hearted.  Especially for nurses who deal with immense stress in the workplace.

Studies show that laughter is so good for your health.  A good laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.  In addition, laughter increases your immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter makes people feel good, which is exactly what stressed out nurses need.   It releases endorphines, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Studies show that laughter has the power to promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Woman watching a funny movie and laughing

2.  Get moving:  endorphins are natural stress reducers

Get your heart rate up on your days off!  The benefits of exercise have been well documented is is essential for nurse self care.  It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood and helps decrease stress levels.  Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also helps nurses have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.

Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.  Which, in turn will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.

3.  Yoga:  learn the art of how to relax

Yoga is great stress management for nurses. Compassion fatigue can be overwhelming for nurses and learning how to use yoga for relaxation can help.

study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.” While the control group demonstrated no change throughout the course of the study, the yoga group showed a significant improvement in scores for self-care, mindfulness, and emotional exhaustion outcomes.

Nurse self care in the form of yoga is scientifically proven to be beneficial:

  • Stress management.  A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure.  (If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels!).
  • Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain.  Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%.  Yoga not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
  • Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue:  study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.”

Woman doing child's pose.

4.  Have a social life

Good friends can help you manage chronic stress.  It is important to find balance when you work as a nurse, and that includes making time for friendships and a social life outside of the hospital.

Nurses with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index.  Talking with other nurses who are struggling with the same stressers you are can help provide support when you need it most.

Having a good social support group can help in many other ways:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose as a nurse
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with traumatic situations in the workplace, such as patient deaths and abusive or combative patient situations
  • Supportive friendships can encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

5.  Meditate

Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind on a particular thought or activity to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.  It is claimed to reduce stress, anxiety and burnout, and enhance resilience.  And stressed out nurses working long, arduous shifts with often changing schedules need this more then anyone.

A few benefits of meditation:

  • Decreased burnout
  • Better focus and ability to ignore distractions
  • Boost compassion
  • Better sleep
  • Stress relief
  • Happier state of mind



Headspace is an app for your phone that has many different meditations each lasting 1o to 60 minutes. If you can find 10 minutes in your day then you have no excuse not to meditate!  Meditation is attainable for even the busiest of nurses!

Like yoga, meditation is a practice. There is no good or bad. It is just what it is at the time. You can keep practicing to train your mind to do better the next time. And then eventually your brain is rewired by the habitual repetition of meditation and it becomes easier.

It is not uncommon for hospitals to have a space for spiritual prayer or meditation for patients and their families.  However, nurses should also be offered a meditative space to clear their heads, and have a quiet moment to themselves.  This would help nurses return to their work environments with renewed energy and focus to give better patient care.

Women meditating on bed

6.  Eat nutritious foods

Nurse break rooms are notorious for having sugary snacks like donuts, cookies, or other unhealthy junk food all within an arms reach.  Sweets are so tempting to nibble on when you are tired and need a little extra energy.  But then a few moments later you crash and are even more tired.   On another note, eating nutritious and easy snacks will keep you energized during a 12 hour shift. 

Pack snacks like these in your lunch bag to help keep your blood sugar levels balanced during your shift:

  • Baby carrots, broccoli or other veggies & hummus
  • Celery and almond butter
  • Strawberries, blueberries
  • Granola and yogurt
  • Almonds or cashews
  • Avocado toast
  • Sliced apples and peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana
  • Trail mix

Tips for nurses to make healthy meals fast:  Try making a big batch of quinoa, brown rice or black bean pasta to have handy in the fridge.  These are a few great staples that you can build a nourishing meal around.  When you get hungry you can mix in a protein, veggies, nuts or seeds, dried fruits, or even just enjoy them with a little olive oil and sea salt.   The key is to have healthy food that is easy to prepare BEFORE you get super hungry.

P.S.  HEY NURSES!  Remember to grab your FREE E-Book “The Nurse’s Guide To Health & Self Care” below! (scroll down)

Additional Recommended Reading:

Nurse Burnout Symptoms To Watch Out For

Nurse Burnout Symptoms To Watch Out For

(This post may contain affiliate links.  You can find my disclosure page here.)

The nursing profession tends to attract the most compassionate and empathetic people alive.  For that reason, nurses are also the most susceptible to experiencing “burnout.”  Eventually, chronic overwork and stress can lead to nurse burnout symptoms such as exhaustion, anxiety, physical injury or even depression.  If you have been a nurse for a while then you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

Nurse burnout symptoms don’t start right away.

A novice nurse is so fresh.  The happiness to be done with nursing school combined with the excitement of having the title RN after your name moves the new nurse optimistically through each 12 hour shift.

Yet, many nurses find themselves experiencing nurse burnout symptoms, sometimes after only a year or two in the profession.  Still, they continue working with the same rigor and determination without taking good care of themselves.

A tired nurse holding her head down with nurse burnout and compassion fatigue

Here are a few nurse burnout symptoms to look out for:

1.  Chronic exhaustion

Have you ever gotten 8 hours of sleep yet still felt exhausted when you woke up?  Or, are you so tired that you can’t imagine how you are going to make it through another 12 hour shift?  If so, you may be experiencing chronic exhaustion.

Many nurses aren’t just tired, they are worn out.  Not only do nurses work long 12 hour shifts, but many nurses are working mid shifts, night shifts and overtime. In fact, studies show that the longer the shifts for hospital nurses, the higher the levels of burnout and patient dissatisfaction.

2.  Compassion Fatigue

Nursing is a caring profession and compassion is one of the most important elements of patient care.  However, constantly caring for others’ needs before your own can lead to compassion fatigue.  Symptoms of compassion fatigue include emotional exhaustion, irritability, and poor job satisfaction.  You simply cannot be a good nurse if you begin to dislike your job.

If you find yourself feeling like you are losing compassion for your patients because you are experiencing this nurse burnout symptom, then you owe it to your patients and yourself to take a break.  Go on a vacation, play a round of golf, take a yoga class or find a way to get some quality alone time to recharge your batteries.

3.  Losing your passion

When many nurses are asked why they decided to go into the nursing profession they say it was because they had a “passion” for helping humankind.  Passion is exactly what drives us to do good work.  So, if you feel you are losing your passion then it may be a good time to find it again.

Stagnation is the killer of passion.  Do you feel like you are no longer learning within your specialty? Perhaps it is time to become certified within your specialty or even find a new specialty altogether.  Nursing is a career for lifelong learners.  Learning keeps us educated and it can also help you find your passion for nursing again.  It’s a win-win!

Nurse burnout symptoms to watch out for.

More is expected of nurses than ever before.

Nurses need to find a work life balance more than ever.  Heavier patient loads and the physical demands that come with working arduous 12 hour shifts are killing the spirit of many RN’s.  To top it off, it seems as if hospitals are trying to save money in any way they can and unfortunately that usually translates into less and less resources for nurses.

The bottom line is this:  when nurses are able to take care of themselves they are able to give the best possible care to their patients.  This scenario is a win-win for everyone involved:  nurses, patients, and the business people who are managing healthcare.

As nurses, we simply cannot continue to burn the candle at both ends and expect a good outcome.

If you are experiencing nurse burnout, there is hope!  You can beat nurse burnout and even rediscover your passion for nursing.  A result of my own nurse burnout was that I became a nurse blogger to vent my frustrations and help find solutions for my own burnout.  However, it is your responsibility to figure out why you are unhappy within your career and find your nursing passion once again.  You too can beat nurse burnout!

P.S.  Sign up to receive your FREE COPY of “The Nurse’s Guide To Health And Self Care” at the bottom of this post!

Additional Recommended Reading:  

Get your FREE copy of “The Nurses Guide to Self Care”

Nurses Nurturing Nurses Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

Nurses Nurturing Nurses Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

In case you missed it, last week I was interviewed by the amazing Nurse Coach Jessica Smith and we talked about bouncing back from burnout.

Well, guess what?  I got ANOTHER chance to talk with Jessica this week about a topic that is near and dear to my heart:  nurses nurturing nurses!  (I had so much fun the first time, what can I say?!)

Our ‘Nurses Nurturing Nurses‘YouTube interview can be found HERE!

During the interview, we discussed:

  • Strategies you can use to attain a work-life balance with a busy nursing schedule;
  • How you can design your life around how you want to feel;
  • How doing simple things each day can make a BIG impact on your overall health and well-being;

I’d love for you to listen in – and even better – leave a comment!

Again, the link to listen in can be found here!

Take care,

Sarah

Additional Recommended Reading:
7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout
Nurse Burnout:  How Administration Can Help
How To Achieve A Work-Life Balance As A Nurse
Nurse Health:  Self- Care For 12 Hours Shifts

Bouncing Back From Burnout Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

Bouncing Back From Burnout Interview With Jessica Smith, RN

Nurse burnout sucks.  I’ve totally been there. 

So, it may seem odd at first to hear that I also LOVE talking about nurse burnout. In fact, I think every nurse experiences burnout at some point in their career (if you haven’t please email me back and let me know your secret!). 

Here’s the kicker.  Once you admit you have an issue with nursing burnout you open yourself to the idea of potential solutions.  But if you just pull your hoodie over your eyes and continue to suffer in silence then nothing ever changes.  And your burnout gets even worse.

So, let’s talk about solutions for nurse burnout!  (Solving problems is always better than complaining anyway). 

Bouncing back from nurse burnout
Last week I had an amazing opportunity to interview with nurse coach and fellow ER nurse, Jessica Smith about bouncing back from burnout!

Our Bouncing Back From Burnout YouTube interview can be found here

During the interview, we discussed:

  • How you can find a work-life balance with a busy nursing schedule;
  • Why nurses need to make their own health a #1 priority;
  • How getting to the “why” in your burnout can help you find patterns that contribute to your burnout;
  • And why you should always surround yourself with positive support!

I’d love for you to listen in – and even better – leave a comment or share it with your fellow nurse friends!  

Again, the link to listen in can be found here!

I can’t wait for you to check it out!

P.S.  If you are a nurse struggling with finding ways to take better care of yourself, here is a FREE E-BOOK .  It’s called Nurse, Take Care Of Yourself First.  Because nurses work really, really hard.  And we need to be taking better care of ourselves.  It includes tips for nurses on how to stay healthy during 12 hour shifts, ideas for better self care at home and suggestions for finding a better work-life balance.  

Additional Recommended Reading:

7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout
Nurse Burnout:  How Administration Can Help
How To Achieve A Work-Life Balance As A Nurse
Nurse Health:  Self- Care For 12 Hours Shift

Nurse Health: Self Care For 12 Hour Shifts

Nurse Health: Self Care For 12 Hour Shifts

Are you a nurse who works long 12 hour shifts? 

If the answer is yes, that’s awesome!  You are working in an honorable and philanthropically rewarding field.  But unfortunately, if you are like a lot of hardworking shift workers you may at times feel overworked, exhausted and even burned out.  

Everyone knows that 12 hour shift schedules can be extremely demanding.  What are you doing for yourself to ensure that you stay healthy and thrive

With a little preparation and focus on your personal well-being you can be both a healthy nurse and give great care to your patients.  Its time to focus on nurse self care!

Nurse Health: 11 GREAT tips for nurses to THRIVE while working a 12 hour shift schedule:

#1.  Sleep

Nursing schedules revolve around a need for 24/7 patient care.   Sleep deprivation is a real concern, especially for those working night shift.  Nurse self care starts with a good night (or in some cases day) of sleep.  Here are a few tips to encourage healthier sleep habits after you complete a 12 hour shift:

  • Turn off the tv (an hour of sleep is always more important then another episode)
  • Calm your mind and body with a few easy yoga stretches (hint:  yoga props such as a mat, yoga blocks, and a strap can be helpful with restorative stretches).
  • Take a hot shower
  • Try meditation (Headspace is a great meditation app for busy people)
  • Use good ear plugs and a sleep mask
  • Get into bed an hour earlier then you normally do (& see how much better you feel after one week!)
To be a healthy nurse you must get a good night's sleep.

Nurse self care should be a priority.   That includes getting a good night sleep!

#2.  Exercise

Get your heart rate up on your days off!  The benefits of exercise have been well documented is is essential for nurse self care.  It is no secret that regular exercise helps control weight, boosts overall energy, improves your mood and helps decrease stress levels.  Not only does exercise benefit the nurse personally, but it also helps nurses have the stamina to give better care to patients as well.

Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A yoga session or brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.  Which, in turn will help manage caregiver burden and help you feel your best.

Exercise is great for nurse health.

Nurse, get your heart rate up!

#.3  Grocery shop 

Grocery shopping is so important for nurses and other hospital workers to ensure good nutrition.  It is no secret that healthy food choices are crucial for overall good health and well-being.  Make sure you are filling your plate with high density vitamins and minerals.  You simply can’t maintain good energy and stamina over a 12 hour shift on sugary snacks and fast food!

Plan ahead by creating a grocery list of the foods you want to eat while you are at work.  That way you wont be tempted to reach for something unhealthy when you have a few moments to eat in-between caring for patients.

Tips for nurses to make healthy meals fast:  Try making a big batch of quinoa, brown rice or black bean pasta to have handy in the fridge.  These are a few great staples that you can build a nourishing meal around.  When you get hungry you can mix in a protein, veggies, nuts or seeds, dried fruits, or even just enjoy them with a little olive oil and sea salt.   The key is to have healthy food that is easy to prepare BEFORE you get super hungry.

a well balanced diet is important for nurse health and wellness.

A well balanced diet is important for nurse health and wellness.

#4.  Eat a healthy breakfast

Studies show that eating a nutritious breakfast (as opposed to the dougnuts and other goodies often found in the breakroom) can help give you:

  • More strength and endurance to engage in physical activity and maintaing stamina to survive through a 12 hour shift.  
  • Improved concentration, which can help you give better patient care. 
  • A diet higher in complete nutriants, vitamins and minerals.

Tips for nurses to ensure that you have a nutritious meal ready before each 12 hour shift:  Make several mason jars of overnight oats with a variation of these flavors: blueberry/strawberry/raspberry, peanut butter and maple, banana and walnut, or almond and raisin.  You can add ground flaxseed or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefit. Then top it off with a dash of cinnamon for a delicious ready-to-eat breakfast.

Oats: a simple yet nutritious way to start a 12 hour shift!

Oats: a simple yet nutritious way to start a 12 hour shift (nurse self care can be tasty!)

#5.  Pack your lunch 

Packing a lunch will help ensure that you make wise food choices when you are in the middle of a shift and starting to feel tired.  And it will save you a little money to boot!   

Here are a few items I use for packing my lunch that help me through every 12 hour shift:

Healthy nurse habit:  pack your lunch!

Healthy nurse habit: pack your lunch!


#6.  Incorporate healthy snacks into your shift

Nurse break rooms are notorious for having sugary snacks like donuts, cookies, or other unhealthy junk food all within an arms reach.  Sweets are so tempting to nibble on when you are tired and need a little extra energy.  But then a few moments later you crash and are even more tired.   On another note, eating nutritious and easy snacks will keep you energized during a 12 hour shift. 

Pack snacks like these in your lunch bag to help keep your blood sugar levels balanced during your shift:

  • Baby carrots, broccoli or other veggies & hummus
  • Celery and almond butter
  • Strawberries, blueberries
  • Granola and yogurt
  • Almonds or cashews
  • Avocado toast
  • Sliced apples and peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese with pineapple or banana
  • Trail mix
Almonds:  a healthy nurse snack!

Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!

#7.  Don’t overdo caffeine

Many studies suggest that coffee and tea have incredible health benefits while also giving you an extra boost of energy.  Unfortunately caffeine can also have the opposite effect by leading to rebound fatigue after it leaves your system.  Therefore, its a good idea to aim for moderate caffeine intake to help minimize rebound fatigue.

Additionally, one of the drawbacks of too much caffeine late in a 12 hour shift is that it can also cause insomnia.  And nurses need their sleep to help recover from the hard work we do taking care of patients each day!

Extra tip:  Green teas (like this one) can give you an energy boost with extra antioxidant benefits and without the caffeine jitters!

Green tea:  high in antioxidants!

Green tea: a healthy drink for 12 hour shift workers!

#8.  Get good shoes

It is not uncommon for nurses to be on their feet for 8 to 12 hours or longer during a shift.  That is why is it absolutely essential that you wear comfortable and durable shoes during your shift.

I have been alternating between my Dansko clogs and New Balance tennis shoes as a nurse for over 6 years.  My feet thank me for it.  Invest in a quality shoe that is built to protect the feet of busy hospital workers who are on their feet all day.

“I wish I didn’t invest in comfortable, sturdy shoes” said no nurse ever.  

Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.

Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.


#9.  Remember to drink water

Have you ever worked an entire shift and realized at the end that you forgot to drink water for the entire day.  It is so easy to do when you are extremely busy with back to back patients and heavy work assignments. 

Invest in a good water bottle with a seal-able lid (to prevent accidental spillage).  Keep it where you do most of your charting in the nurses station.  And try to make it a priority to drink your water every hour during your shift to stay hydrated.

Here are a few favorites:

Make you own chia seed water:  Add 3 tbsp of organic chia seeds to your water bottle and mix well (you can add more or less to your liking).  Within a few hours the seeds will blow up in size and into a gelatinous consistency.  

(Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants, fiber, iron and calcium.  Just another easy way to add nutrients into your busy day!) 

Drink water throughout your 12 hour shift and stay hydrated!

Drink water throughout your 12 hour shift and stay hydrated!

#10.  Wear compression stocks

Compression socks or stockings are a non-negotiable for healthcare workers who are on their feet for 12 hour shifts!  Here are 3 very important reasons why compression socks are a must-have for every shift worker:

  • Prevention of varicose veins:  Standing for long periods of time causes valves in the veins to become weakened, causing blood to collect in the veins. This causes the veins to enlarge, increase in pressure and stretch, causing unsightly varicose veins.
  • Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots:  A study by The Society of Occupational Medicine found that wearing compression stockings significantly decreased lower limb venous pressure in nurses who stood for very long hours. 
  • Decreased swelling of ankles and feet:  Swollen ankles and feet are a common side effect of being on ones feet for a 12 hour shift.  

Many nurses who wear compression socks say that their legs “feel more energized” after a 12 hour shift.  Pregnant shift workers are especially at risk of leg swelling (due to increased blood volumes during pregnancy) and should consider wearing them to prevent venous issues.

Nurse health: wear compression socks for venous health

Nurse health & your venous system: wear compression socks!

#11.  Do yoga 

Nurses need yoga, period.  Not only does yoga replenishes depleted reserves after a 12 hour shift,  but a relaxed and more focused nurse is able to give better patient care.  

Yoga’s amazing benefits on physical and mental health are well documented in literature. The Mayo clinic has stated that “yoga may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower your heart rate” among many other benefits.

Nurse self care in the form of yoga is scientifically proven to be beneficial: 

  • Stress management. study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only 8 weeks of yoga the results showed that the participating ICU nurses had significantly better focus coping strategies and a major reduction in perceived mental pressure.  (If that is what can happen after only 8 weeks, imagine the impact a regular, permanent yoga practice could have on stress management levels!).
  • Prevent or eliminate chronic low back pain.  Chronic back pain in the nursing population is a common ailment. An evidenced based review at the Texas Women’s University reported that estimates of chronic low back pain among nurses range from 50%-80%.  Yoga not only increases flexibly, but increases muscle strength and prevents injuries such as chronic lower back pain.
  • Prevent burnout and compassion fatigue:  study published in Workplace Health & Safety on yoga for self-care and burnout prevention of nurses found that yoga participants “reported significantly higher self-care as well as less emotional exhaustion upon completion of an 8-week yoga intervention.”  
Nurses need to practice yoga for self care

Nurses need to practice yoga for self care.

Are you a nurse who is experiencing burnout and want to live a healthier life?  Nurse self care should not be an afterthought. Do you have any other self care tips for nurses that you would like to add? Leave a comment! 

 

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