7 Tips to Prepare For Your 12-Hour Nursing Shifts

Not every profession has the “normal” schedule of a 9-5 workday. It is however normal for nurses and healthcare workers. These shifts can be extremely draining on an individual and that’s why it’s important to implement the best practices to prepare for those long 12-hour nursing shifts. Without taking the necessary steps to prepare for these long shifts, you can become burnt out very quickly. Take the time to set yourself up for success and make the best of these shifts with these work tips listed below.


7 Tips on Preparing For Your 12 Hour Shift


1. Get Enough Sleep Before Your Nursing Shift

One of the most important factors to having a successful 12-hour hospital nursing shift is making sure you get enough rest the night before. You should be getting around 7 – 8 hours of sleep to get the full potential of optimal health. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep will typically have negative impacts on your mood and clarity. Another tip on getting enough sleep is to try and stay away from caffeine or alcohol right before laying down. By getting the recommended amount of sleep before your shift, you will be more alert and have more energy conserved throughout the duration of your day.


2. Prepare Meals Before Your Nursing Shift

Not only is rest extremely important, but so are eating meals for fueling your body. You need to feed your body and mind to fuel up energy for those long 12-hour nursing shifts. Try to start preparing your food the day before or on your days off to set yourself up for success. Not only will prepping your meals help you out time management wise, but by making sure you have a well-balanced meal, you will be creating healthy habits by staying nourished. Running on little to no food will wear you down quickly, especially on these long days.


3. Stay Hydrated During Your Long Nursing Shifts

Continuing on the topic of keeping your body healthy, it’s extremely important to keep your body hydrated. Drinking enough water is crucial for many different reasons. Staying hydrated at work  will help regulate your body temperature, keep organs functioning properly, deliver nutrients to cells, improve mood, cognition, and sleep quality. If you are dehydrated it can cause a range of negative effects such as fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches, and dizziness. Experiencing any of these effects from being dehydrated will have a negative impact on your workday. As a nurse, you know how important it is to have energy throughout your entire shift to be able to provide the best care to your patients.  If it’s difficult for you to remember to drink water throughout the day, it may be helpful to set reminders on your phone.


4. Use Breaks Wisely During Your Nursing Shift

During these long days it’s important you take every scheduled break allowed. Lengthy shifts take a toll on you, not only physically but mentally as well. These breaks can help you reset your mind, body, and soul. When you are taking these breaks, make sure to actually take time for yourself. By multitasking on your breaks or continuing working, it does not allow you to regroup and reset. Try to change the scenery if you can by getting some fresh air or taking a walk. As a nurse sometimes it feels like there is no opportunity to take a break during those busy shifts. It’s important to advocate for your breaks. Being able to reset for even 5 minutes will allow you to collect yourself and be better for both your patients, co-workers, and employers.


5. Keep a Positive Mindset Throughout Your Nursing Shift

Try to keep a positive mindset when you are at work. Not only does your mental attitude play a role in how others perceive you, but it also has an impact on the quality, satisfaction, and performance of your work. Go into these shifts focusing on the positive. By doing this it can help make the shift go by faster and boost morale with clients and coworkers. Tips for staying in a positive mindset for the duration of your shift include limiting complaints, embracing laughter, and surrounding yourself with optimistic individuals.


6. Choose Comfortable Supporting Nursing Shoes

Proper footwear is an essential component of staying healthy and comfortable during long nursing shifts. Though it’s easy to overlook, the right shoes can make all the difference for nurses spending 12+ hours a day on their feet. This tip is important for those nursing jobs where you’re on your feet the majority of the shift. After thousands of steps over the course of a shift, improper support leads to aches, pains, and long term damage to joints and feet. Additionally, the average pair of shoes lasts just 6 months with that kind of wear and tear. By investing in shoes specifically designed for extended use, nurses can promote proper body alignment and prevent back problems down the road. The initial cost pays dividends through continued comfort shift after shift. For nurses tasked with physically demanding work, proper footwear provides critical support where it’s needed most.


7. Make the Most of Your Days Off From Nursing

12-Hour nursing shifts are a lot to handle. Try to organize your day-to-day life schedule by consolidating any errands to one of your off days so you can relax for the remaining off days. By doing this as much as possible, you will create a routine and optimize the time you have to save physical energy for work responsibilities. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your time off either. Filling your off days with social activities or quality time with family or friends is good for your mental well-being. Planning things ahead of time on your off days is just another way to help you get through your workdays by giving you something to look forward to. Work doesn’t seem too bad when you have something exciting coming up!


Consider these tips to make the most out of your 12-hour nursing shifts. It is important not to neglect your own health and well-being. By creating this routine of always being well-prepared for your long days, it should make these shifts easier on your body and mind. Not only will this benefit you personally, but it will also benefit your clients.

Have any other helpful tips that isn’t listed? Let me know in the comments below!