The 12 hour nursing shift can be daunting and often those shifts can turn into 12+ hours! Being engaged and pacing yourself for a long nursing shift can be intimidating and exhausting. But how do nurses do it? We’ve asked nurses what they do to help them get through the day. Let’s look at 24 tips nurses use to get through a long 12+ hour shift:
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1. Rest Up
It all starts with a good foundation. Make sure you get enough sleep before your shift. Sleep does wonders to your mood and your ability to perform your best (who would have thought?!). You need to be well rested in order to make it through the upcoming work day.
2. Wake Up!
Start the day off right by giving yourself an energy boost when you wake up. Start with a brisk walk. Get your morning caffeine ready. Drink cold ice water. And for the more ambitious, hit the gym before your shift!
3. Start Optimistic
Sure there are days where we don’t like our job, but try to start the day on an optimistic note. Think about the positive sides of your job and what you like. Give yourself a little pep talk! You are awesome. You’re a great nurse. It might be hard, but you are going to make a difference today.
4. Eat Before Your Day Starts
Please eat. Nobody wants to encounter a hangry nurse! Giving yourself a nutritious meal before you start work will energize you and jump-start your day!
5. Prepare Yourself
Get to work a few minutes early so you don’t feel rushed when you get there. Give yourself some time to collect your thoughts so you don’t start the day off frazzled.
6. Get Your Nursing Tools in Order
Collect your nursing tools for the day. I like to have a roll of tape, scissors, hemostats, alcohol wipes, saline flushes, stethoscope, etc… Amazon has been one of my favorite places to stock up on nursing gear. You can check out what I carry in my nursing pockets.
7. Wear Scrubs with Pockets!
Speaking of pockets, wear scrubs with many pockets! Some of my favorite scrubs are ones with 10+ pockets on them! Pockets make it SO much easier to organize nursing tools, even if it makes me feel like a pack-horse! Some of my coworkers wear a nurse organizer belt to add extra pockets to their nurse attire, which is a great idea. For me, I invest in flattering and functional scrubs with many pockets.
8. Wear Supportive Shoes
A pair of shoes can really make or break your day as a nurse. With long nursing shifts, it’s great to have a supportive and comfortable pair of shoes. I didn’t realize how important this actually was until I invested in my Danskos (Brianna prefers Alegria). My quality of life prior to my shoe investment was subpar; I was compromising my back, legs and feet. Investing in a stylish and supportive nursing shoe is one of the best decisions I have made to improve my nursing lifestyle.
9. Wear Compression Socks
Along with supportive shoes, wearing a good pair of compression socks are a must. I am in love with my current compression socks. (You can see my favorite nursing compression socks here). Since wearing my compression socks, my legs and feet don’t ache after long shifts and it is helping me manage and prevent varicose veins!
10. Prioritizing and Organizing is Key
When you get to work, take a look at your patient assignment. Prioritize your nursing tasks and decide on approximate times to complete each item. Look at your medication schedule. Look at your patient’s health status. Decide how to organize your day. One tool I use to help organize my day is a good nursing brain! Check out my favorite nursing brain here! It really helps to organize my thoughts and tasks I need to complete for the day.
11. Assess Your Patients’ Goals
Ask your patients about their goals for the day. Do they want to take a walk around the unit? Do they want their pain better managed? Maybe they want to discharge early. Set reasonable and achievable goals with your patients. Then, act on those goals.
12. Anticipate Patient Needs
My floor is always pushing us to anticipate our patients needs and to participate in purposeful rounding. For example, we focus on the “4 Ps” (Potty, Pain, Position, and Periphery) to help foresee our patient’s needs before they push the call light. Learn to anticipate what your patient needs before they need it, which will lead to better time management!
13. Time Management
Managing your time is sometimes difficult to achieve, as there are so many variables that constantly change throughout the day. Look at what you need to complete during the day and estimate how much time you should spend with each person.
14. Chart in Real-Time
Along with time management, find a time to get your charting done early and chart in real-time whenever possible. Don’t wait until the end of the day to sit down and chart. Charting in real-time paints a more accurate picture of how your patient is doing and minimizes the risk of forgetting to chart something later. Do yourself and other health professionals a favor by staying on top of your charting.
15. Check Your Emails
Checking your email can be annoying, and let’s be honest, sometimes it feels like you’re sifting through piles and piles of unnecessary emails! However, email is one of the best ways the management team stays connected with staff. Try to check your emails for work updates once a shift so you stay informed!
16. Get to Know Your Patients
The busy morning rush may not be the best time to have personal conversations, but try to find a time to get to know your patient on a personal level. Ask them what they like to do in their spare time. Ask them where they are from. Tell them a little bit about you! It makes your care more personable while gaining the confidence and trust of your patients.
17. Stay Hydrated!
Drink lots of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated will help maintain your energy and keep you going through the day. I have my trusty nalgene water bottle but my coworkers love their hydro flask water bottles because it keeps their beverage hot or cold all day! Sometimes it’s hard for me to drink water since I’m not a huge water fan. Often, I will use these flavoring packs to help encourage me to drink more water.
18. Go to Your Office (aka the Bathroom)
Visit your “office” to give your mind and bladder much needed relief. That dressing change or room 25’s requests for extra snacks can wait five more minutes. Be kind to your bladder and bowel.
19. Bring Healthy Snacks
When you’re stressed at work, it’s easy to fall into a bad snacking habit or raid the floor’s supply of crackers or jello. But bringing your own healthy snacks will give you the nutrition your body needs. Try trading that hospital jello for your own carrot sticks or a cup of yogurt. It will help re-energize you during those long hours at work.
20. Take Lunch
Remember to take care of yourself! Learn to make time for your much needed and deserved lunch. Sometimes it gets insanely busy and it’s hard to find a time to sit down. If you need to ask your other coworkers or charge nurse for a favor so you can eat, do it.
21. Help Your Coworkers
You and your coworkers are on the same team. Be a team player and offer a helping hand to your coworkers, whether that’s passing some pain medicine or helping a patient to the bathroom. Your coworkers are a huge support system and building a solid relationship with them will help both parties get through the shift.
22. Build Relationships with Your Coworkers
Get to know who you are working with, and I’m not just talking about your fellow nursing staff. Build relationships with all of your coworkers, including the respiratory therapists, physicians, residents, housekeepers, etc! Discover their passions… their struggles… their story! You’re all on the same team and building a relationship with them will help you all create a mutual understanding and respect for each other.
23. Improve Your Work Environment
As you continue about your work, think of ways that you could improve your unit. Are some of the policies outdated? Are there things that the unit does that is inefficient or compromises patient safety? Maybe the organization in a closet needs some help! Speak up and be an advocate to improve your work environment!
24. Prepare the Next Shift for Success
It’s the final countdown!! Your shift is almost done, and you’re probably ready to go home! Before you make a beeline for the door, make sure you’re setting the next shift up for success. Make your final rounds and settle your patients before you pass on the baton. Ask the next shift if there is anything else you can do to make their shift go smoother. Pass off your patients how you would like to receive them.
How do you prepare for your nursing shift? And what gets you through a long nursing shift? Share in the comments below!!
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