*This post about working mom health tips for nurses working long 12 hour+ shifts has affiliate links. You can find our disclosure page here.
Preparing for 12 hour shifts as a registered nurse requires some prearranged ground work 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 ER 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!
(This post contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure page here.)
My top 4 priorities for keeping myself and my family healthy as a nurse:
#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 including:
- Avocado or almond toast
- Bananas, apples, kiwis, various berries
- Black bean or chick pea 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 by far my favorite meal prep tool.
To say I use it at least twice a day would be an understatement! In fact, this is my #1 working mom health tip. 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.
I have a vegetable and berry smoothie with 1 tablespoon of Maca powder, flax seed and/or hemp seeds for protein, and acai powder. I alternate my veggies between broccoli, spinach or kale. For the berry part: strawberries, blueberries and raspberries although sometimes I’ll add half a banana or mango.
I also make several mason jars (16oz) of overnight oats on Sundays with a variation of flavors:
- peanut butter and maple
- banana and walnut
- almond and raisin
Then I’ll either add ground flax seeds or chia seeds for extra protein and antioxidant benefit. And I’ll top 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 is 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 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 ear plugs. After having kids I realized that I am am incredibly light sleeper. In fact, even the slightest noises wake me up in the middle of the night. Sometimes I have difficulty failing 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 my bed that I use for restorative yoga poses about 20 minutes before I try to go to sleep. It helps me decompress my from my day, check in with myself and put me into a snugly and sleepy mood.
#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; it is 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 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
Those who know me know I’m fanatical about 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 in the cutest styles now.
Being a nurse and mom is already hard enough.
But with a little preparation and focus on your personal well-being and time management you can be both a healthy nurse and mom and give great care to your patients. It’s time to focus on nurse self care!
We hope this list of working mom health tips for 12 hour shifts helps to make your life a little easier. Please leave a comment if you have anything you would like to add!
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
- 7 Ways To Beat Nurse Burnout
- Nurse Health: Self Care For 12 Hour Shifts
- How Becoming A Per Diem Nurse Helped Me Find A Work-Life Balance
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