(This post about what to wear under scrubs contains affiliate links. See our disclosure page for more info).
Many nurses and other medical personnel appreciate the gift of wearing medical scrubs to work for each shift. And who can blame them? After all, scrubs are as comfortable as a set of pajamas, and they take the guesswork out of what you should wear at work each day. They can also save you a lot of cash that you would otherwise spend on clothing over time.
Some medical institutions require that you wear a specific color and brand of scrubs. This can offer additional benifits – both for staff and visitors. Assigned scrub colors help patients and other staff understand what you do. For example, when I was a nurse at UCLA Medical Center, all of the nurses wore navy blue, the CNAs wore army green, our ER techs wore bright blue, and anyone who worked in radiology wore brown. Assigning a scrub color helps patients and family members to know what you do when you walk into their room, which can help alleviate a lot of confusion.
At the medical spa I work at now, all nurses wear Figs scrubs in black (side note, the FIGS jogger scrubs are the best scrub pants I have ever worn!). Patients automatically know who the clinicians are, and it gives the office a more professional, streamlined look.
Needless to say, scrub uniforms are great for many reasons. But unfortunately, they don’t leave a lot of room for individuality. You may even begin to feel you are lost in a sea of medical staff, and after a while, that might feel a little boring.
But there are other ways to project your own style that are both functional and fashionable. And it may also help you out if you are wondering what to wear under scrubs in winter when it’s cold on your commute into your 6 am shift.
What do nurses wear under scrubs?
There is a common term that nurses and other medical professionals use to explain what they wear underneath their scrub uniforms, and that is “underscrubs.”
Underscrubs are exactly what they sound like they would be – clothing designed to be worn under medical scrubs. They are often as comfortable as the scrubs themselves, durable to last hundreds of washes (depending on the brand), can add a flair of color, and will keep you warm in the coldest of operating rooms and medical units.
(Many underscrubs can be worn alone as workout gear. So, if you work out, you will definitely get your money’s worth on many of these items!)
What do you wear under scrub tops?
One of the best ways to make sure that you have enough under scrub tops to make it through the week without having to do laundry after you get home from a long shift is to buy them in packs of 3 or 5. That way, you know you will have one to keep you warm when you are at work. They come in 3/4 sleeves and long sleeves.
#1. Adar Long Sleeve Underscrub for Women (3 Pack)
What to wear under scrubs pants?
There are many options for you to stay warm under your scrub pants. A pair of breathable yoga pants, thermal underwear, or form-fitting spandex shorties are always a safe bet. You want to make sure that your scrubs are loose enough for the material to fit underneath your scrub pants. If necessary, you may want to size up a little on your scrub pants if what you want to wear underneath is not form-fitting.
What to wear under white scrubs?
In all honestly, white scrubs have never made a lot of sense to me. Studies have shown that when a nurse wears white scrubs to see a child on a pediatric unit, they appear scarier and even more intimidating than nurses who wear colorful scrubs with cartoon or holiday themes. Not to mention that they also clearly display every blood and bodily fluid stain, which looks pretty gross from a patient’s perspective.
Even more importantly, though, depending on the material, white scrubs can sometimes show your underwear! If that is the case, you want to wear something neutral, so underneath won’t show through.
Even though white scrubs can be a pain, many institutions and nursing schools require white scrubs as part of their medical uniform. If you are in this group, you have no choice but to wear them for the foreseeable future. But the good news is that there are still options that you can wear under your scrubs to stay warm and be comfortable.
A white underscrub will help keep you warm without breaking the rules. But if your workplace or school allows it, consider a colorful underscrub so you can stand out from your peers.
Since my early nursing days, I have been a big fan of compression socks when I worked as a novice nurse on a neuro/trauma unit. Unfortunately, I didn’t start wearing them religiously underneath my scrubs until the middle of my first pregnancy.
There is something about compression sleeves that I like even more than compression socks – I think they provide more compression. And I also wear them when I work out go running as well!
The most obvious thing that you might expect a nurse to wear underneath their scrubs is compression socks. You can find them in all different colors and patterns, ranging from the silly (like bugs bunny or polka dot) to festive (like Halloween or Christmas themed), and everything in between.
I rarely see a nurse in a boring pair of compression socks. Why would they, when it is one of the few ways medical workers can bring some unique style to their medical uniform?
I hope this article helped you answer the question, “What do I wear under my scrubs?” One final tip you might find helpful is to bring your scrubs with you to the store so you can try your underscrubs on with your uniform before you commit to buying.
If you are ordering online (and who isn’t these days), try them on with your scrubs before removing any tags. You don’t want to wear them to work before realizing that they don’t fit right or aren’t comfortable, so you can return them if necessary.
Additional recommended reading:
I have a few favorite nurse essentials that I keep with me each day I go to work.
I am a registered nurse who has worked in several departments in the hospital setting taking care of ER, Med Surg, and ICU patients. As a result, I have seen it all and then some. And I still see new things that shock me every day.
I created this list of my favorite essentials I use as a nurse to help other nurses keep their professional nurse game on point.
(This post contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
12 Nurse Essentials I Can’t Live Without
I bought a 3M Littmann Classic in nursing school, and I have been using it ever since. They are available in many different colors and have a “non-chill” rim, so you don’t shock your patients with a cold stethoscope. Whether you are trying to obtain a manual blood pressure or listening to lung sounds, every nurse needs to have a stethoscope.
Keeping your stethoscope around your neck can get in the way sometimes. I love the Koala-Qlip stethoscope holder because it attaches firmly to my scrubs and it takes the weight of the stethoscope off my neck.
Nikes are my favorite shoes to wear for 12-hour shifts when I know I’m going to be on my feet all day long. Wearing sturdy, no-slip shoes that help cushion your feet during 12-hour shifts is an absolute must!
Compression stockings are often overlooked as a way to prevent some of the chronic issues that come from working in a profession where you are on your feet for such long hours. Wearing compression socks helps to prevent varicose veins, improve venous blood flow, decrease the risk of blood clots, and decrease swelling of the ankles and feet. I have found that compression socks with 20-30mmHg are the right compression strength for me as a nurse.
At work, I use the Apple Watch as a stopwatch, a timer, and as an alarm to remind myself of tasks I might forget when my shift gets crazy busy. I can also receive and send text messages on it without having to carry my cell phone with me.
But my favorite thing about the Apple Watch is that it records how much I stand, exercise, and move throughout my shift (it breaks them down into colorful rings) and tells me how many total steps I get in a shift. My record so far is 22,000 steps during a single shift!
Comfortable under scrub t-shirts are great because it can get cold in the hospital. This brand is especially great because they have thumb holes in the sleeves. I have several so that I always have a clean one to put on under my scrubs.
As a nurse and mom, I start my days very early, usually by 0530. And then I’m usually on the road to get to work no later than 0600. Which doesn’t leave a lot of time to sit for coffee. I have used the same Contigo coffee mug for over a year, and it is still in great condition. It is 20 oz, is stainless and has a lockable lid that is leak proof. Best of all, it keeps my coffee hot for up to 7 hours!
My Hydro Cell Water bottle is another item I have with me at all times. It is 32 oz and has a leak-proof wide mouth lid. Nurses often forget to drink enough water during busy 12-hour shifts, but having this water bottle helps me stay hydrated.
I have this crossbody bag, which is technically not a bag that is just for nurses. But I love the design. I use it to hold my nursing badge, stethoscope, water bottle, coffee mug, breast pump, pens, and all work-related paperwork that I need.
Making my lunch everyday has several benefits. I eat healthier, I don’t reach for junk that is in the break room because I pack my healthy snacks, and I save a lot of money. I’m also a foodie, and hospital food just isn’t my cup of tea. So I pack my lunch in my favorite lunch bag every evening before my shifts, and I’m good to go.
The Raptor Shears look like a fancy pair of scissors. But these functional and handy shears are 6 tools wrapped into one:
- medical shears
- strap cutter
- ring cutter
- oxygen tank wrench
- carbide glass breaker
Many nurses I work with in the emergency room have the Raptor Shears and we use them frequently in emergency situations. You can hook it to a belt or secure it using the pocket clip. It also has a 25-year limited warranty and will last you throughout your nursing career or longer. They also make a great nursing gift for a new graduate!
These retractable four-color pens are great in case you need something to stand out in your work notes. Or use different colors for different patients when taking report. These pens are also great for color-coding notes and flashcards for when you are studying for certifications! I always have a few in my work bag and one on me while I am at work
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
What nurse essentials do you use at work that you can’t live without? Leave a comment!
*Updated on 4/9/20 to include pregnant nurse precautions for COVID-19. *Affiliate links.
As an ER nurse who delivered my second baby in early 2018, I have done a lot of research about pregnant nurse precautions to be aware of when you work in a hospital. My goal was to make sure that it was safe for me to continue working in such a physically demanding environment with so many potential occupational hazards.
Fortunately, I was able to work safely right up until a few weeks before giving birth. As a per diem nurse, I did not have any maternity or disability benefits, so I wanted to save up as much money as possible before I went out on leave. Thankfully, I was able to do just that. But safety was still my number one concern. I hope this information can help other nurses stay safe during their pregnancies as well.
Talk to your OBGYN
First off, you must talk to your doctor to discuss any occupational concerns you have during your pregnancy. Continue the dialog at your prenatal appointments as you move along your pregnancy. If you have questions in between your appointments, then contact your doctor.
My goal in writing this is not to make pregnant nurses afraid to work in the hospital. I am so glad that I was able to safely work as a pregnant nurse for as long as I did. Still, there is no shortage of occupational hazards for the pregnant nurse within the hospital setting. Working safely is the number one goal.
You must communicate with management and your charge nurse about your pregnancy. They cannot help you avoid potential pregnancy hazards if they don’t know that you are expecting.
Additional recommended reading: Prayers For The Sick And For Nurses During COVID-19
Pregnant nurse precautions and hazards to consider:
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has many pregnant healthcare providers, especially frontline nurses, uniquely concerned. Because COVID-19 is so new, there hasn’t been enough time to study its effects on breastfeeding or pregnant women. Also, many nurses who are working directly with COVID-19 patients say they don’t have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them from the virus safely. That maybe even more problematic for pregnant nurses who directly care for COVID-19 patients.
“We do not have information from published scientific reports about susceptibility of pregnant women to COVID-19. Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19. Pregnant women also might be at risk for severe illness, morbidity, or mortality compared to the general population as observed in cases of other related coronavirus infections [including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)* and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)] and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, during pregnancy.”
On pregnant healthcare personal and COVID-19, the CDC stated:
“Pregnant healthcare personnel (HCP) should follow risk assessment and infection control guidelines for HCP exposed to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Adherence to recommended infection prevention and control practices is an important part of protecting all HCP in healthcare settings. Information on COVID-19 in pregnancy is very limited; facilities may want to consider limiting exposure of pregnant HCP to patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, especially during higher risk procedures (e.g., aerosol-generating procedures) if feasible based on staffing availability.”
Essentially, the CDC does not know at this time if pregnant women are at a higher risk when working with COVID-19 patients because the evidence is limited. As a precaution, pregnant women may want to consider working in lower-risk areas where they have less exposure to COVID-19 patients.
The most important take away is to always take care of yourself first. You can’t care for your family and your patients if you become sick.
Radiation from diagnostic imaging
In the ER and on most floor units within the hospital, patients often receive portable X-rays at the bedside. So naturally, I was concerned about radiation exposure and how it could impact the health of my unborn child. I felt it was wise to air on the side of safety by not exposing myself to unnecessary radiation during pregnancy.
If you are in an area where x-rays are being taken, you must wear a lead radiation apron to protect yourself, especially if you are within six feet of the machine. If possible, it is also a good idea to step outside the room while the image is taken.
In my nursing experience, x-ray technicians usually notify anyone within the vicinity of where imaging is being taken. I was able to leave the area for a few minutes, whether I was wearing a lead apron or not.
- Notify management of pregnancy
- Wear lead radiation apron
- Step outside of the room when portable x-rays are taking place
Dangers from working with chemo or other teratogenic medications
There is evidence that handling some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause adverse reproductive outcomes, including fetal loss, miscarriage, infertility, and preterm births. In addition, it may cause learning disabilities in babies exposed to some drugs if nurses are exposed during pregnancy.
Wearing protective equipment, such as gowns, masks, and gloves, can minimize occupational risk to a pregnant nurse. However, it does not completely eradicate it.
Nurses working in oncology or other areas where antineoplastics are prescribed may want to speak with management about the safest way to continue working. In addition, you can insist on getting help from co-workers or management to give teratogenic medications to patients. Moving to another work area may be a consideration if safety for the fetus is still a concern.
- Wear protective equipment when giving medications
- Ask for help from co-workers when working with teratogenic medications
- Consider temporarily working in another area of the hospital during pregnancy as your management allows
Additional recommended reading: Why I love being an ER nurse
Risk for infection
As a pregnant ER nurse, I was very concerned with the risk of infection from patients such as c-diff, tuberculosis, cytomegalovirus, and influenza during my pregnancy. Since the ER is often the first stop in the hospital for sick patients, I often didn’t know that a patient had a contagious infection until after they had been admitted. By then it was too late to protect myself if I hadn’t already.
Pregnant women need to be especially proactive with protective equipment and hand hygiene. It is ideal for all hospital employees to have their measles, mumps, and varicella-zoster vaccinations before pregnancy (most facilities require these vaccinations to work anyway). Hep B and influenza vaccination can also safely be administered during pregnancy.
As an added precaution, I made sure to change my clothes and shoes before leaving the hospital to minimize the risk of work-to-home contamination. The first thing I did upon getting home was take a shower to rid myself of any other possible bugs I could have inadvertently carried home with me.
- Stay up to date in all vaccines including the yearly flu vaccine
- Adhere to strict universal precautions and hand hygiene
- Request job modification to minimize exposure to specific patient populations
- Minimize work-to-home contamination by changing work clothes and shoes before going home
- Shower as soon as you get home from work
The physicality of nursing while pregnant
Being a nurse while pregnant is exceptionally hard work. Not only are we on our feet for up to 12 hours a day, but pregnant nurses are also carrying an extra 25-plus pounds towards the latter part of pregnancy. Additionally, the extra girth makes it significantly more challenging to fit into tight spaces.
Movement becomes even more awkward for pregnant nurses due to having an altered center of gravity. Also, high serum levels of progesterone and relaxin loosen muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues. For nurses who do a lot of heavy, repetitive work requiring lifting, pulling, or pushing their risk of musculoskeletal injury is increased.
It is wise for pregnant nurses to use patient transfer equipment and to ask co-workers for help with moving patients. However, if your work situation is still too physical for you to manage safely during pregnancy, you may want to consider a modified duty in a lower risk setting with a less physical patient load.
On another note, pregnant nurses also have a higher risk of developing varicose veins due to an increase in total blood volume caused by pregnancy. The added blood volume, combined with being on one’s feet all day, leads to poor circulation, puffy legs, and swollen ankles. Compression socks or stockings can help reduce the risk of blood clots and varicose veins as well as prevent swelling.
- Pregnant nurses may want to inquire about modified duty
- Understand how the altered center of gravity and hormonal changes in pregnancy predispose a nurse to injury (despite using best lifting practices)
- Use patient transfer equipment when available
- Ask for additional staff help with transfers
- Wear compression socks or stockings
Additional recommended reading: Top 30 Ultimate List Of Nursing School Supplies And Essentials
I worked in our ER psychiatric hold area several times throughout my pregnancy. There were a few incidences where I had patients verbally threaten me or begin to escalate towards violence. I always had a security guard with me, and I stayed a reasonable distance away from patients when I felt that my safety could be at risk. I was likely overly cautious at times, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
Violence against nurses is not uncommon, especially in the ER setting. Stay vigilant and keep away from any potentially threatening situations. If a patient is escalating towards violence, then leave and call for help immediately.
Working during flu season
The CDC recommends that pregnant women get a flu shot. Not only do hormone changes during pregnancy often make pregnant women more susceptible to getting the flu, but a common flu symptom is a fever, which may be associated with neural tube defects and other adverse outcomes for a developing baby. Getting vaccinated can also help protect a baby after birth from flu through passive immunity.
My experience: The flu season in December 2017 was unusually bad. Many patients came to our ER for flu symptoms. Unfortunately, almost every nurse was infected with the flu or a cold at least once during the season. Myself, included.
At the time, I was over eight months pregnant, and I was struggling with how horrible I felt. I always get a flu shot to reduce my chances of getting sick during flu season. However, if I ever got pregnant again, I might consider starting my maternity leave towards the beginning of the flu season – especially, if I was that close to my due date.
An unexpected benefit of working as a nurse during pregnancy
One of the best gifts that pregnancy gave me was that it forced me to not be sedentary on days that I felt fatigued. (Although while you are carrying an extra 25-35 pounds of extra weight, you may not consider it a benefit).
Many studies show that not moving enough during pregnancy is bad for both mom and baby. If fact, exercise during pregnancy can boost your baby’s brain development and make them smarter. Who knew that working a 12-hour shift might promote health for both you and your unborn baby?
Good luck to you during your pregnancy and take care of yourself!
Additional Recommended Reading:
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 well-being, you can be both a healthy nurse and give great care to your patients. Its time to focus on nurse self-care!
11 tips to THRIVE as a nurse during 12-hour shifts:
Nurse self-care should be a priority. That includes getting a good night’s sleep!
Nursing schedules revolve around a need for 24/7 patient care. Sleep deprivation is a real concern, especially for those working night shifts. 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 than 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 earplugs and a sleep mask
- Get into bed an hour earlier than you usually do (& see how much better you feel after one week!)
Nurse, get your heart rate up!
Get your heart rate up on your days off! The benefits of exercise have been well documented 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 allows nurses to 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.
#3. Grocery shop
A well-balanced diet is essential for nurse health and wellness.
Grocery shopping is so important for nurses and other hospital workers to ensure proper 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 won’t 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.
#4. Eat a healthy breakfast
Oats: a nutritious yet straightforward way to start a 12-hour shift (nurse self-care can be tasty!)
Studies show that eating a nutritious breakfast (as opposed to the doughnuts and other goodies often found in the breakroom) can help give you:
- More strength and endurance to engage in physical activity and maintaining stamina to survive through a 12-hour shift.
- Improved concentration, which can help you give better patient care.
- A diet higher in complete nutrients, 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 benefits. Then top it off with a dash of cinnamon for a delicious ready-to-eat breakfast.
#5. Pack your lunch
Healthy nurse habit: 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:
#6. Incorporate healthy snacks into your shift
Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!
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
#7. Don’t overdo caffeine
Green tea: a healthy drink for 12-hour shift workers!
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, it’s 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 additional antioxidant benefits and without the caffeine jitters!
#8. Get good shoes
Nurses must invest in good shoes to maintain foot health.
It is not uncommon for nurses to be on their feet for 8 to 12 hours or longer during a shift. That is why it is 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 six years. My feet thank me for it. Invest in quality footwear 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.
#9. Remember to drink water
Drink water throughout your 12-hour shift and stay hydrated!
Have you ever worked an entire shift and realized at the end that you forgot to drink water for the whole 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 nurse’s 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 your 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!)
#10. Wear compression socks
Nurse health & your venous system: wear compression socks!
Compression socks or stockings are non-negotiable for healthcare workers who are on their feet for 12-hour shifts! Here are three fundamental reasons why compression socks are a must-have for every shift worker:
- Prevention of varicose veins: Standing for extended periods 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 one’s 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.
#11. Do yoga
Nurses need to practice yoga for self-care.
Nurses need yoga, period. Not only does yoga replenishes depleted reserves after a 12-hour shift, but a relaxed and more focused nurse can give better patient care.
Yoga’s amazing benefits on physical and mental health are well documented in the 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. A study published in the National Institute of Biotechnology Information investigated the effects of yoga on stress coping strategies of ICU nurses. After only eight 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 eight 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: A 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.”
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!
Additional recommended reading:
(This post contains affiliate links. See our disclosure page for for information. Post updated 7/29/19).
Nurses need to be wearing compression socks or stockings for every shift. Especially nurses who are on their feet for 12 hour shifts!
I have been doing a bit of research lately on the effects of standing/walking for long hours. The reason for this is that I am an emergency room nurse who has worked on my feet all the way through two entire pregnancies – until just a few weeks before I gave birth.
I had no idea that being on my feet for such long hours could actually be bad for my health. I figured that standing and walking all day was better then sitting for long periods. As it turns out, that may not be true. Even for those who aren’t even pregnant.
Compression stockings are often overlooked as a way to prevent some of the chronic issues that come from working in a profession where you are on your feet for such long hours. There are enough occupational hazards for nurses as it is and this is an easier way for us to take better care of ourselves on the job!
Nurses are standing or walking most of the time which is why it is so important to wear compression socks or stockings.
How Do Compression Socks Help Nurses?
#1. 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 and increase in pressure. The veins then stretch from the increased pressure and cause varicose veins. Fortunately, varicose veins are not dangerous however then can be very painful.
#2. Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots
There are a ton of studies out there on using compression stockings to prevent blood clots in patients recovering from surgery. As a nurse, I have helped my own patients use them many times. As it turns out, nurses should probably be using them too.
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. The data found that compression stockings protected against oxidative stress in those who work in long-standing occupations.
#3. Decreased swelling of ankles and feet
I have been wearing graduated 30mm compression stockings for about the last 4 weeks during my 12 hour ER shifts. It has been a drastically better experience for me. I wouldn’t even consider going into work without them at this point because my legs start to hurt so badly by the end of the day.
Pregnancy exacerbates the problem of varicose veins and other venous issues since being pregnant increases blood flow in women by 50%. There are days when I hardly sit except for my 1 hour lunch break. That is a long time for anyone, much less a nurse who is already 7 months pregnant. If I didn’t wear compression stockings at this point, I don’t think I would even be able to make it through a shift.
Compression socks help nurses by preventing varicose views due to standing for long periods of time.
How do compression socks work?
Compression socks help increase circulation of blood flow and oxygen by helping increase the velocity, or speed of blood flow. By squeezing on the legs, the veins carrying blood to the heart are compressed. Think of how when you squeeze a hose, it squirts the water out faster. With compression stockings, the same volume of blood is able to move up the leg, but it has less area in which to move.
Compression socks and stockings help nurses by preventing varicose veins due to standing for long periods of time.
Waring compression takes some getting used to.
When I first started wearing compression stockings during my pregnancy I wasn’t happy about it. My doctor recommended them for me because she knew I was a nurse. I wore the ankle to waist 20-30mmHg compression stockings, and they are tight! It is not an exaggeration to say that it took at least 5 minutes to pull them up and get them situated. They are especially difficult to put on with a 7th month pregnant belly. I felt (and probably looked) like an awkward whale putting them on.
Compression socks or stockings are a non-negotiable for pregnant nurses… unless you enjoy varicose veins!
Now that I’m used to wearing compression stockings, I love them. I can’t believe I used to work 12 hour shifts without them.
I have spoken to a lot of other nurses who say the same thing. A male co-worker I spoke with recently in the ER wears knee high compression stockings and says his legs “still feel energized at the end of a shift.”
It makes sense that standing up and working on your feet all day would be problematic in a matter of time. Swelling, varicose veins and decreased blood flow seem like an obvious result of being on your feet for 12 hours a day. Why wasn’t I wearing compression stockings sooner?
As long as I am working as a nurse, compression stockings will be a part of my life. Having pain or discomfort due to my hard work as an RN is so not OK with me. I don’t want future circulation and venous issues due to the fact that I worked hard as a nurse.
As a mom of small babies and an ER nurse I certainly don’t need any more wear-and-tear on my body!
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