How to Best Prepare for a 12 Hour Shift as a Nurse

12 Hour Shift as a Nurse Working a 12-hour shift as a nurse, which means you only work three days a week is one of the best things ever. Well, you get to work 3 days a week! What can be so hard? To be honest, nurses are usually on their feet for the better part of their 12-hour shifts.

They barely have time to use the restroom, eat, and even drink water. They’re constantly using their brains, ensuring that every single thing they do is safe, follows policy, and is best for the patient. Also, they get emotionally drained caring for sick and dying patients plus being a support system for their families. So yes, even though they only work three days a week, it is still emotionally and physically draining.

Below are tips that will help you get through each workweek, thrive, and prevent nurse burnout.

Tips to Help Prepare for a 12 Hour Shift

  1. What You Eat Matters

Something that you probably have been hearing for the majority of your life now, but what you put in your body matters.  If you eat pizza from the cafeteria, French fries, and chicken fingers on the regular you’re going to feel sluggish and tired throughout your 12-hour work shift.  Instead, if you give your body the nutrients that it needs you’ll feel energized enough to get through the day/night.

Not only does what you eat matter but how much you eat matters.  A critical mistake when packing your lunchbox (if you take your own lunch) is not bringing enough food.  I find that I need to pack something for breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack.  (If you’re on the night shift that would mean packing a snack, dinner, and either breakfast or another snack for the early morning).  You don’t want to allow yourself to get so hungry that you end up running to the vending machine or candy jar to satisfy your cravings.

If you don’t take your own food, try to make nutritious choices in the cafeteria.  Opt for a salad instead of fries.  Greek yogurt instead of a breakfast burrito, etc.

  1. How Much You Sleep Matters

Let me say this louder for the people in the back – your sleep matters!  Getting enough sleep before your shift will give you a clear, sharp mind when going in to care for your patients.  If you can’t sleep try taking melatonin or consult with your doctor.

While everyone is different, I find that I function best off of 7-8 hours of sleep.  Knowing this, I usually get in bed around 9:30 pm (if I plan to wake up at 5:30 am), and either read or watch one TV show.  Once my show is over or I’ve read until about 10, I turn out the lights.  Find a routine that works best for you and stick to it!

  1. Stay Hydrated

Some hospitals don’t allow nurses to have water bottles nearby, instead, there is a designated drink station in the middle of the unit.  And even if you’re allowed to have a water bottle nearby, remembering to drink that water can be difficult.  But here’s the thing, I need you to make it a priority to stay hydrated during your nursing shifts. You’re keeping your appetite in check by staying hydrated , hopefully avoiding those dehydration headaches, and flushing your system of any toxins.

  1. Don’t Overcommit

This goes for your work life and your social life.  If work wants you to pick up an extra shift and you know that you are already emotionally or physically spent, it is not only okay to say no, but imperative to say no.  The best thing for you, and subsequently your patients, is for you to listen to your body and mind.  If you need a day off of work no amount of money or peer pressure should bring you into the hospital.  I believe that I am not burned out from work because I’ve made a rule for myself that I will not pick up an extra shift.  And I’ve stuck to that rule!  I take full advantage of only working three days a week and refuse to apologize for it.

You see, 12-hour shifts for nurses can be tiring and leave you feeling depleted. Follow the tips above and give yourself some extra TLC, and you’re going to thrive in the work environment in no time. Feel free to visit our for more information.






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