How I Prepare For A 12 Hour Shift (And Stay Healthy)

How I Prepare For A 12 Hour Shift (And Stay Healthy)

(*Updated 3/9/20.  This post about 12-hour shifts and health may contain affiliate links.  You can read my disclosure policy here).

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 my health education if I don’t take my own advice and stay healthy too.  No excuses!

My top 3 priorities for 12 hour-shifts and staying healthy:

#1. Grocery shop and prepare all meals in advance

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

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

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

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

The Nutribullet is by far my favorite cooking tool.

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 1 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. (The Nutribullet is one of the best inventions of the 21st century, I tell you).

I also make several mason jars of overnight oats on Sundays with a variety of flavors:

  • Blueberry/strawberry/raspberry
  • 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 with a dash of cinnamon. These make such an easy breakfast to go!

order now

 

#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 due to take care of themselves is rest as much as possible before shifts.  Therefore, I make it a huge priority to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep before shifts.  (This was so much easier before we had kids!)

I 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.
  • 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 snugly and sleepy mood.

 

ORDER NOW

 

#3 Get regular exercise on the off days

I always feel so much better when I get my heart rate up on my days off. The benefits of exercise have been well documented 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 burden and help you feel your best.

For me personally, yoga has been a total game-changer for my stress levels.  But its 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!

Consider wearing compression stockings or compression socks.

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 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 is the cutest styles now.

 

ORDER NOW

Being a working mom is hard work.

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

So, what are you going to do for yourself to ensure that you stay healthy and thrive? 

Additional recommended reading:

An RN Mother on Healthcare, Nurse Life and Family

An RN Mother on Healthcare, Nurse Life and Family

Hi, I’m Sarah and its lovely to meet you. I am happy that you are joining me on my first blog post!

This is my maiden voyage out in the blog writing ocean. I have so many things I want to talk about, and I am craving a creative outlet by which to share my interests: motherhood, life as an RN, healthcare prevention, babies, kid safety, superfoods, my love of yoga and pretty much anything else related to healthcare. Not a very narrow niche. So, for now, I’m just going to start writing and see where my heart leads me.

A little about me:

John, Sarah and little Zoe at the park

Christmas circa 2016, Roseville, CA.

Way, way back in the day at Chico State I majored in Journalism and was a budding writer with a weekly column at our student newspaper, The Orion. Shortly after graduation, I decided that newspaper writing was not for me. So I completely changed my plans and entered the field of medical device sales.

I worked for nine crazy, intense years observing various surgeries and hustling medical equipment to operating rooms up and down the west coast.  Weekly travel was the norm. I probably spent the equivalent of a few years living in hotel rooms during that period of my life.

Over time this left me massively burned out and desperate for a change.  My resume, however, said that I was a salesperson and limited my opportunities.

I made a drastic career change-up from corporate sales exec to BSN student.

Sara and Jana

This was taken during my pediatric rotation at Kaiser West Los Angeles. I was such a newbie nurse!

A longing for greater clinical medical knowledge and the desire to be a better human lead me to go back to college and earn my Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  To stay this was a challenge is an understatement. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life!

Leaving a high-paying job to go back to school for three years to come out with a lower-paying job is not the most financially wise choice. However, it did make me a lot happier in the long run.  Following my passion for healthcare has been one of the greatest life changes I have ever made.

I began my new career as a registered nurse.

I began the RN residency program at UCLA Medical Center on the Neuroscience and Stroke unit shortly after graduation. A few years later, I passed Stroke Certified Registered Nurse Certification and began training other new graduates in my unit.

In 2015, I completed the Yoga Works Urban Zen Practitioner Program at UCLA. The program was designed to help nurses care for patients in a more holistic way by combining the benefits of eastern and western care. I got to learn more about some of my favorite things: yoga and in-bed yoga movements, guided meditation, essential oils, and Reiki. It was an incredible learning experience, and it ultimately changed how I give care to my patients.

In early 2017, I was accepted into an RN training program in the Emergency Room. It is intense, challenging, and exhausting, and I love it! Definitely not for the faint of heart. My skills have been pushed to the limit, and I can officially say I am fantastic at difficult IV starts. I guess that’s what happens when you start five or more IV’s in a day!

Stethoscope in the shape of a heart

 

Being a nurse means that I never stop learning.

I dabbled in the medspa industry for about eight months as a side gig because I thought it was a career I was interested in. I became certified to use various lasers (IPL, hair removal) and also got certified to give injectables (Botox, Juvederm, ect..). It was fun for a while, but I ultimately decided to stay full time at the hospital because I am way more passionate about the clinical side of nursing.

There were “perks” to being in the medspa industry that I liked, like free injectables and free skincare products. Eventually, though, I realized that wasn’t a good enough reason to leave the hospital, and I didn’t love the work.

Healthcare and wellness have always been a passion of mine.

Nursing school helped me foster this passion and gave me a solid foundation for understanding health and the human body. I do my best to stay up to date on current healthcare and nutritional studies, and I try to be a good educational resource for my patients and family.

The stress of my first career lead me to search for ways to better care for myself. I started practicing yoga and meditation regularly, and it has remained a happy habit for over a decade. Now I incorporate it into my daily life and don’t know where I would be without it. There are a lot of things I practice at home to keep myself and my family healthy that I am excited to share on this blog.

My newest job title is Mommy (and I couldn’t be prouder!).

On Halloween morning in 2015, my husband and I welcomed our daughter, Zoe, into the world. She is a spunky, sweet, and smart little lady who has changed our lives for the better. I apologize in advance for the ridiculous amount of baby photos that I am sure I will post in the future. I can’t help it, I’m a proud Mama!

Zoe made her arrival seven weeks early due to a very rare and dangerous condition I got when I was 33 weeks pregnant called a placental abruption. In short, the placenta (lifeline from mom to baby) that was giving Zoe blood, oxygen, and nutrients suddenly disconnected from my uterus. This caused me to hemorrhage internally instead of delivering blood to where it should have been going- to Zoe!

Luckily right as it was happening, I was feeling terrible, and my husband had taken me to the hospital to get checked out. I was lucky to be there in the nick of time to have an emergency c-section. My doctors informed me that babies don’t usually survive placental abruptions, and we are forever grateful.

Zoe is our miracle baby, and we thank our lucky stars for her every single day. There is no better gift than the gift of a healthy baby!

My current gigs are:

  • Mom of two toddlers
  • Wife to an amazing husband
  • Registered Nurse
  • Freelance writer and blogger about preventative health, nutrition, self-wellness, life as an RN, family, motherly interests, and other topics I think are cool
Sarah, John Zoe together

Our very early days as new parents.

I have a few goals in this writing journey:  explore the awesomeness and insanity of motherhood while trying to balance a career as a nurse, nurture a happy marriage, foster friendships, and continue to learn and share healthcare information—basically, all the lifestyle things I love.

Additional recommended reading:

 

Sarah, Mother Nurse Love