*This post contains affiliate links/ Updated from 12/2017
Preparing for 12-hour shifts as a registered nurse requires some prearranged groundwork 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 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 me when I talk about health about staying healthy if I don’t take my own advice.
How I Prepare For a 12-Hour Shift
#1. 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 chickpea pasta
- Cheese squares
- Veggies straws with hummus
- Veggie/fruit smoothies
- 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 My Favorite
In fact, I use it at least once or twice a day! I 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.
In the mornings, I make a vegetable and berry smoothie with one tablespoon of Maca powder, flaxseed and/or hemp seeds for protein, and acai powder. I alternate my veggies between broccoli, spinach, and kale. For the berry part: strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, although sometimes ill add half a banana or mango.
I also make several mason jars of overnight oats on Sundays with a variety of flavors:
- Peanut butter and maple
- Banana and walnut
- Almond and raisin
I either add ground flax seeds or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefits. And I’ll top it with a dash of cinnamon. These make such an easy breakfast to go!
#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 are 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 to 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 Earplugs
After having kids, I realized that I am an incredibly light sleeper. In fact, even the slightest noises wake me up in the middle of the night. And sometimes, I have difficulty falling back asleep again, which is so frustrating when I work a 12-hour shift in the morning.
♥ Over 6,700 global reviews/ 4.6 out of 5 stars
Restorative Yoga Poses
I keep a yoga pillow and a yoga mat right next to the bed that I use for restorative yoga poses about 20 minutes before I try to go to sleep. It helps decompress me from my day, check in with myself, and put me into a snug and sleepy mood.
♥ Over 3,400 global reviews/ 4.8 out of 5 stars!
♥ Over 9,400 global reviews/ 4.6 out of 5 stars!
#3. Exercise On Days Off
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 and are 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’s 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!
#4. Wear Compression Socks
These don’t actually help me prepare for a shift; however, they are super important!. Those who know me, know I’m a stickler for compression socks. Wearing compression stockings helped me work all the way through two pregnancies and I continue to wear them at work 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.
♥ Over 50,000 global reviews/ 4.5 out of 5 stars
Nurses play a crucial role in the healthcare industry and are essential in providing quality care to patients. However, in the midst of their demanding and often stressful work, nurses tend to neglect their own health and well-being.
It is important for nurses to prioritize self-care and take the necessary steps to maintain their physical, emotional, and mental health. This will not only benefit you personally but also ensure you can continue to provide excellent care to your patients. Therefore, it is imperative that nurses recognize the importance of self-care and make it a priority in their lives.
Thanks, and best of luck!
How To Prepare For A 12-Hour Shift Frequently Asked Questions
How do I prepare my body for a 12-hour shift?
Preparing your body for a 12-hour shift is important to avoid fatigue and reduce the risk of injury. Here are some tips:
- Get enough sleep the night before.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay hydrated.
- Wear comfortable, supportive shoes and clothing.
- Take breaks and stretch throughout the shift.
- Practice good posture and ergonomics.
- Stay mentally alert with activities like listening to music or podcasts during breaks.
What should a 12-hour nursing shift eat?
A balanced diet is important for nurses working 12-hour shifts. Here are some tips for healthy eating during a long shift:
- Eat a nutritious breakfast before your shift.
- Bring healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, or vegetables to eat throughout the day.
- Pack a balanced lunch with protein, whole grains, and vegetables.
- Drink plenty of water and avoid sugary drinks and excessive caffeine.
- Avoid heavy, greasy meals that can make you feel sluggish.
How far does a nurse walk during an average 12-hour shift?
Nurses can walk several miles during a 12-hour shift, depending on the unit and patient population. On average, a nurse may walk between 4 and 6 miles per shift.
How much sleep do I need for a 12-hour shift?
The amount of sleep you need for a 12-hour shift will vary depending on your individual needs. However, it is generally recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
How to survive three 12-hour shifts in a row?
Surviving three 12-hour shifts in a row can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you manage:
- Get enough sleep and rest between shifts.
- Stay hydrated and eat nutritious meals.
- Take breaks and stretch throughout the shift.
- Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with friends and family.
- Use your days off to rest and recharge.
What are the disadvantages of nurses working 12-hour shifts?
Some of the disadvantages of working 12-hour shifts for nurses include:
- Increased risk of burnout and fatigue.
- Difficulty maintaining work-life balance.
- Increased risk of workplace injuries.
- Potential negative impact on patient safety and quality of care.
- Potential negative impact on personal relationships and mental health.
Why are 8-hour shifts better than 12-hour shifts for nursing?
Some of the advantages of 8-hour shifts over 12-hour shifts for nursing include:
- Lower risk of burnout and fatigue.
- Easier to maintain work-life balance.
- More opportunities for education and training.
- Lower risk of workplace injuries.
- Potential for improved patient safety and quality of care.
Additional recommended reading: