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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
Studies show that eating a nutritious breakfast (as opposed to the dougnuts and other goodies often found in the breakroom) can help give you:
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.
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:
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:
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!
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.
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!)
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:
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.
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.
Sarah Jividen is a registered nurse, blogger, writer, wife, and mother with an aspiration to empower nurses and moms to take better care of themselves. Sarah lives with her husband in a beach suburb outside of Los Angeles where they are raising their two-year-old daughter, newborn son and two rescue kitties. In a rare moment of free time you may find Sarah practicing yoga, socializing with friends, sampling dark beers or attending a local concert venue with her husband.