9 Tips for Working As A Nurse While Pregnant

9 Tips for Working As A Nurse While Pregnant

(This post about tips for working as a nurse while pregnant may contain affiliate links.  Please see disclosure page for more information. *Post updated on 7/26/19)

How am I supposed to survive pregnancy while working 12 hour shift as a nurse?

This is a question I asked myself many times during the early parts of both of my pregnancies.   In fact, at times it really stressed me out!

Was I going to be able to be on my feet all day?  What is the best way to prevent dehydration at work?

And most importantly, how am I going to keep my energy up for my entire shift?!

But by taking proper precautions and always putting safety first, working as a nurse while pregnant is possible.

Please keep in mind that these tips are not a replacement for medical care.  You should always speak with your doctor first about their recommendations.  And if you both decide that working 12 hour shifts during your pregnancy is OK, then here are some tips to help get you through!

a pregnant nurse at work

You can thrive during your pregnancy while working as a nurse when you plan ahead and take good care of yourself!

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

Here are 9 helpful tips for pregnant nurses:

1.  Invest in compression stockings or socks

How compression socks help prevent varicose veins

Compression socks and stockings help nurses by preventing varicose veins due to standing for long periods of time.

During pregnancy, a mother’s blood volume increases by almost 50%!  That’s a lot of extra fluid to be circulating through your body when you are on your feet for 12 hour shifts.  This is also why many pregnant women develop varicose veins during pregnancy.  If you are a pregnant nurse and haven’t invested in compression socks yet, its time to get a couple of pairs ASAP.

Compression stockings are often overlooked as a proactive 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.  Pregnant women especially benefit from wearing compression stockings or socks during a 12 hour shift for a few reasons:
  • Prevention of varicose veins
  • Improved blood flow and decreased risk of blood clots
  • Decreased swelling of ankles and feet

I was able to continue working as an emergency room nurse up until the beginning of my ninth month of pregnancy because I invested in a few quality pairs of toe to waist compression stockings.  I wouldn’t have made it past my 6th month without them!

2.  Wear good shoes

NIKE shoes for nurses

Pregnant nurses must make sure they have great shoes to support their growing belly’s.

Every nurse needs a great pair of shoes to get through a 12 hour shift.  But the benefits to wearing quality nursing shoes during pregnancy it is even more important.  You will be carrying an extra 25-35 pounds and your feet need support to carry that extra weight.  If you thought your feet hurt working as a nurse before pregnancy, wait until you are pregnant! Keep in mind that your feet will swell a little more during pregnancy.

Things to look for in a great pair of nursing shoes.

  • Comfort
  • Support and stability
  • Slip resistance
  • Work function
  • Price and warranty

You can read more about the best shoes for nurses here!


3.  Pack healthy and energizing snacks

Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!

Almonds: a healthy nurse snack!

During my first trimester I struggled quite a bit with nausea and an overwhelming feeling of hungover-ness (without any of the fun the night before).  I was also training to be an ER nurse, so it was more important than ever to be alert and focused.

By packing a lunch with nutritious snacks everyday I was able to keep myself energized as well as fend off nausea enough to get through each shift.  I just couldn’t go more than 2-3 hours without refueling myself with something healthy to eat.

Admittedly, when I forgot to bring food with me I would eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the stash we gave our patients.  Although they were nothing special, for some reason they tasted amazing.  Never underestimate the hunger of a pregnant nurse!  I felt so much better and able to continue working afterwards.

Here are a few easy, fast, and high energy snacks to help your pregnant body stay energized through your 12 hour shifts:

  • Trail mix
  • Energy bars
  • Almond butter and apples
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Greek yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Edamame
  • Veggies and hummus


4.  Go to bed as early as you can.

To be a healthy nurse you must get a good night's sleep.

Pregnant nurses need their sleep!

You simply cannot sleep too much when you are pregnant.  This is a fact.

Here is a sleep secret that got my through 12 hour shifts during my pregnancy.  I would go down to the hospital meditation room during my lunch break, find a comfortable chair and literally pass out for 45 minutes.  I set my phone alarm to make sure I was back to work on time.  When it when it went off I was so deep in REM sleep that sometimes I didn’t even know where I was when I woke up.

The only way you are going to have the energy to make it through your pregnancy while working 12 hour shifts is to make sure you get as much sleep as you possibly can every night.  8 hours would be ideal.

5.  Aim for 30 minutes of exercise everyday

women practicing yoga

Prenatal yoga can help nurses deal with stress during pregnancy.

It seams counter intuitive, but exercising while pregnant will actually give you more energy to get through a 12 hour shift. In addition, exercise during pregnancy prevents gestational diabetes and hypertension.

(It is important to talk to your doctor about starting any exercise routine during pregnancy.  There are rare circumstances when your doctor may not want you to exercise while pregnant.)

Non-impact exercises for pregnant nurses include:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Hand weights
  • Low impact aerobics


6.  Reconsider working the night shift

Nurse playing with daughter and examining eyes

Working the night shift can be especially challenging during pregnancy. Consider switching to day shift.

The rigorousness of working 12 hour shifts as a nurse is exhausting as it is.  Add pregnancy into the mix and you might find that you are even more tired than ever.

Some pregnant nurses who have already been working night shift continue with that schedule and do just  fine.  However, those who have rotating day and night schedules might find it especially hard to switch back to the night shift once they become pregnant.

Talk to your doctor about whether it is safe for you to continue working night shifts.  Communicate with your manager about your specific health needs during your pregnancy. You may want to switch to a day shift only schedule for the duration of your pregnancy.

7.  Talk to your manager about modified duty

Pregnant Nurse at work

Many facilities are able to offer modified duty for nurses who can’t be on their feet all day.

As a pregnant nurse it may be necessary to have a modified work assignment.  Especially for nurses who work in rigorous units such as the emergency department.  The physical demands of pregnancy might be too much for pregnant nurses already struggling with fatigue, nausea or having to carry so much extra weight.

Talk to your manager to see if there are alternative assignments you can have such as working at the monitor, organizing paperwork or auditing patient charts.  If these options are not available consider the possibility of working shorter shifts or working two days a week instead of three.

Remember, always ask for help if you need it!

8.  Communicate with management about your intended time to go on maternity leave

It is important to keep open communication with administration about when you intend to go on maternity leave.  As a pregnant nurse, you cannot predict the future.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had every intention of working up until my 38th week.  But when I had my appointment at 31 weeks my doctor thought it was best that I didn’t work on my feet for more 6 hours a day.  While 6 hours seems like a lot in most professions,  it’s not much for a hospital nurse.    Sometimes we are on our feet for 10-12 hours a shift!

Yet, I still didn’t want to go off work because for some reason I felt like I was taking advantage of the system.  I thought I had the grit to work all the way through.  So, I waited for two weeks before I finally presented my doctors note to my manager.  When I finally did, I gave it to him with tears in my eyes because I knew he would have to put me on disability at that time.  My maternity leave started at that moment.

It was a good thing in the long run because I suffered a placental abruption and had an emergency c-section 7 weeks before my due date.  It is wise to listen to your doctor’s advice!

9.  Enjoy your pregnancy

pregnant women's belly

Enjoy your pregnancy, nurse!

Pregnancy can and should be a beautiful experience, even when you are a nurse working 12 hour shifts.  Far too often many pregnant nurses focus on the inconveniences and difficulties they face at work during their pregnancies  But with proper precautions it can – and should – be a time filled with good health, gratitude, abundance and most of all, joy.

Recommended reading for the nurse mom:

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Pregnant Nurse Precautions To Consider At Work

Pregnant Nurse Precautions To Consider At Work

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, it is always important that you 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 are no shortage of occupational hazards for the pregnant nurse within the hospital setting. Working safely is the number one goal.  

It is crucial that you 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. 

Pregnant nurse precautions to consider at work

Pregnant nurse precautions and hazards to consider:

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.  

Key takeaways:  

  • Notify management of pregnancy 
  • Wear lead radiation apron
  • Step outside of 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. 

Key takeaways:

  • 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

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.

Key takeaways:

  • 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 certain 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

Physicality of nursing while pregnant

Being a nurse while pregnant is especially 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 difficult to fit into tight spaces.  

Movement becomes even more awkward for pregnant nurses due to having an altered center of gravity.  In addition, 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.

Key takeaways:

  • 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

Violent patients

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 and/or begin to escalate towards violence.  I always had a security guard with me and I stayed a good distance away from patients when I felt that my safety could be at risk.  It is likely that I was 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 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 8 months pregnant and I was really struggling with a 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 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 really tired. (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 actually boost your baby’s brain development and make them smarter.  Who knew that working a 12 hour shift might actually promote health for both you and your unborn baby?

Good luck to you during your pregnancy and take care of yourself mama!

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Additional Recommended Reading: 

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! 

 

3 Ways Compression Socks And Stockings Help Nurses

3 Ways Compression Socks And Stockings Help Nurses

(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!

Standing nurse leaning over to speak with patient

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 prevent varicose veins..

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.

graduated compression socks

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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Additional recommend reading:

The Best Compression Stockings For Nurses

The Best Compression Stockings For Nurses

*This post contains affiliate links.  My disclosure policy is really boring but you can find it here.

If there is anyone who NEEDS to be wearing compression stockings or socks, its nurses (or anyone who is one their feet for 12+ hours a day!).

There are 3 reasons for this:

  1. Prevent or reduce varicose veins
  2. Improve blood flow and decrease risk of blood clots
  3. Decrease swelling of the legs and ankles

Nurses already put a lot of stress on their bodies, we don’t need more!  (Read more about the benefits of compression stockings here).

Since I started wearing compression stockings my legs feel noticeably better and more energized at the end of a shift.  I started wearing them out of necessity when I was pregnant and was able to continue working as an ER nurse until I was almost 8 and a half months pregnant!

I have always felt good about the fact that I have a job that is not sedentary.  But as it turns out being on my feet for such long hours can actually be worse for your health then sitting all day. So how are we supposed to continue working as busy healthcare professionals AND prevent prevent some of these insidious chronic issues?

Cue, compression stockings!

How do compression stockings work?

Compression stockings 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.

Understanding compression stocking levels:

The best compression stockings for nurses

Nurse, you need to get some compression  stockings (unless you want a few varicose veins).

I know, I know.  This is SUPER boring information.  But its good information to know for your leg health!

Choosing the right compression stockings can be difficult if you do not understand what the levels of compression actually mean.  Compression stockings have a range of numbers to indicate how much graduated compression the garment has. Here is a quick and dirty breakdown:

  • 15-20 mmHg
    • Good for everyday wear to help with welling and fatigued legs due to long periods of travel, sitting or standing.
  • 20-30mmHg
    • Medical grade compression.  Good for managing swelling, spider veins, travel, sports and after some surgeries.  Also good for pregnant mothers to alleviate swelling and achy legs.
  • 30-40 mmHg
    • Recommended when you have a blood clot, deep vein thrombosis DVT or lymphedema.
  • 40-50 mmHg
    • very strong compression for severe venous stasis, wound management, and lymphedema.

(The unit of measurement (mmHg) is called “millimeters of mercury” which is a measurement of pressure, also used in blood pressure.  It is basically a measurement for how tight the compression on your legs is.)

The sweet spot for medical professionals on their feet all day falls in the 20-30 mmHg range or sometimes 30-40mmHg depending on how much compression you are looking for.  You should discuss compression stockings with your doctor, especially if you have any medical issues.

Keep in mind that you get what you pay for.  Generally speaking with all products, if the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is.  The same concept applies to compression stockings.  Trust me when I say I learned this the hard way!

How do I find and review the best compression stockings for nurses?

So glad you asked.  The best compression stockings for nurses are the ones you actually wear!  Here you go…

The Best compression socks for nurses:


Best compression stockings for nurses:


Expecting?  The best compression stockings for pregnant nurses:


There are enough occupational hazards being a nurse already.

Sacrificing my leg health is just not worth it. I can’t believe I wasn’t wearing compression stockings sooner.

As long as I am working as an nurse I will wear compression stockings or socks for every single shift. Pain and discomfort due to my hard work as an RN is so not OK with me. I refuse to have future circulation and venous issues due to the fact that I worked hard as a nurse.

Are you a nurse concerned with effects of being on your feet all day? Have you tried wearing compression stockings?  What are your thoughts?  I love hearing from other nurses!

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love