Nurses and 12-Hour Shifts - How to Make the Best of Them

  1. 13

    Twelve hour shifts have been gaining popularity with nurses and hospitals for some time now. The 12-hour nursing shift began in the 1970's when it was implemented to retain staff during the national nursing shortage. Twelve- hour shifts allow nurses more time at home, however there are some who are not in favor of working these long hours. If you are a 12-hour shift worker, read about how you can make the most of your long shifts. Take the poll at the end of the article to let us know how you feel about 12-hour shifts.

    Nurses and 12-Hour Shifts - How to Make the Best of Them

    Whether you love them or hate them, 12-hour shifts are here to stay. For many new nurses, the thought of working a 12-hour shift can be overwhelming, intimidating and nerve-racking. But don't panic. Here are a few things you can do to make the most out of your 12-hour shift.

    Get Enough Sleep

    Sleep is one thing most nurses don't get enough of, and yet it is one of the most important things a nurse should do. Getting adequate sleep will make you more alert, recharged, and feel better all around, which will make your 12-hour shift a lot easier to manage. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more.

    Eat a Nutritious Meal

    Whether your 12-hour shift begins in the morning or at night, eating a nutritious meal before your shift is vital. It is also important to remember to eat a meal during your shift instead of just snacking. Make sure your meals consist of foods that give you energy with healthy carbs and lean proteins such as Greek yogurt, whole grains, blueberries, eggs, nuts, and lean meats. Don't forget about vegetables. Dark leafy greens are a great source of vitamins and fiber.

    Drink Enough Water

    Because you are constantly moving, it is easy to become dehydrated during a 12-hour shift. Although your bladder may not appreciate this, it is important to drink water throughout your shift . With all the hustle and bustle of being a nurse, it might be hard for you to find the time to drink water, so we recommend that you keep a water bottle near by if you can.

    Buy Good Shoes

    Although good supportive shoes do cost a pretty penny, your back and feet will thank you for investing in a good pair of shoes! Healthy feet are among a nurse's most important assets. Working long hours on your feet make proper footgear not only helpful, but essential. Do your research before buying shoes. Ask your fellow nurses what brand and type of shoe they like best for work. When shopping for shoes, go to a shoe store with knowledgeable staff such as Scheels, Sports Authority, Dick's Sporting Goods, or Foot Locker. Sometimes, gel inserts or orthotics are necessary for comfort as well. This is especially true if you have flat feet, pronounced arches, or bad knees. The right shoes can help nurses focus solely on their patients instead of on tired and achy feet.

    Take Breaks

    One of the biggest concerns over the length of a 12 hour shift is fatigue, and its effect on safety and patient care. To alleviate fatigue, make sure you take your breaks. Sometimes, it is difficult to do, however, simply walking outside around the block, going off the floor and doing deep breathing, grabbing a yogurt or a protein snack, all helps to keep you alert.

    Look on the Bright Side

    You are doing the career of your dreams - the career you worked hard for in nursing school. Most of all, you are helping people that need your care. Let the knowledge that you are caring for people who are in great need of the skills that only a nurse can provide carry you through your shift. For those 12 hours they are under your care, be proud of the fact that you are their nurse.

    Your first 12-hour shift may be a lot to handle at first but if you follow these tips, you may find in the future that you prefer 12 hour shifts over 8 hour shifts.

    Do you have any advice for a nurse that is new to 12-hour shifts?
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Mar 4, '14
    Do you like this Article? Click Like?
  2. Poll: Which do your prefer?

    • 12 hour shifts

      70.02% 794
    • 8 hour shifts

      29.98% 340
    1134 Votes

  3. Visit Brian profile page

    About Brian, ADN

    Brian has '18+' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'CCU, Geriatrics, Critical Care, Tele'. From 'Minnesota'; Joined Mar '98; Posts: 15,436; Likes: 16,369.

    Read My Articles

    70 Comments

  4. by   NightNurseRN13
    I prefer 8 hour shifts. I was doing 12's, but I just have too much going on in order to get a good rest in between the shifts so I switched.

    However, if I didn't have a circus in my household I would much rather do the 12's.

    I've found that sometimes the hardest part of a 12 hour shift comes before you even start. Usually, once I get to work and get started my attitude changes immediately.
  5. by   Nalon1 RN/EMT-P
    after working 24 hour shifts on an ambulance, 12 hour shifts are easy.

    I find 8 hour shifts too short. I think 10 hour shifts are the best, but those are hard to find.
  6. by   NicuGal
    Great suggestions, except the sporting goods store part...the big box store employees really aren't that knowledgeable and work off commission. Go to a local running shop...we have one by us and they sell you the right shoe, not the most expensive or fanciest
  7. by   PalmettoNurseOR
    I love working three 12's. They are overwhelming at first but you get used to them. All the above tips are helpful and true!
  8. by   NYbabyRN
    I like the idea of 12s (having 4 days off), but I find it harder to get enough rest between shifts (due to commute time, etc.), and if you are busy you tend to push through your shift and not take good breaks. I also notice around 10 hrs in my concentration/memory is not as sharp. It's hard to be at work 5 days a week, but I feel I provide better care to my patients and have time to rest between shifts.
  9. by   jandtforker
    I like the idea of 12 hour shift to have more home time but I do think 12 hours is a very long time to be at work in a job that requires alertness and excellent judgement skill like nursing. In the latest issue of the Missouri State Board of Nursing magazine, there were two research articles dealing with this topic. There is overwhelming evidence that anything over 9 hours drastically increases the incidence of medication errors and personal injury to the nurse. That is a little worrisome to me. I currently work 12 hour shifts and it is difficult to get adequate rest between shifts esp with a 45 minute commute each way.
  10. by   amygarside
    I am used to work in an 8-hour shift. It feels just right. I don't burnout. It just feels so right.
  11. by   nette1022
    I have done both. Many nurses still push through and go to work when they don't feel well. It is a struggle when you don't feel well and work a 12 hour shift. I like 8 hours because I am not as tired when I get off, it seems like your at work all of the time when you work five days a week.. 20 days a month vs twelve days a month. I will do the 12.
  12. by   Dranger
    12 no contest, I picked nursing so I didn't have to go to work everyday...unless they are giving me that overtime paper
  13. by   TheCommuter
    I love my 12-hour shifts. Try to pry them from my cold fingers and see what happens!

    As a bedside nurse turned house supervisor, I just do not want to see needy patients or their unrealistic families five days per week. I do not want to see my managers or coworkers five days per week. I simply do not want to be at work five days per week.

    I'd much rather work a compressed schedule of three 12-hour shifts to have four days off per week. I also enjoyed working two 16-hour weekend double shifts to get five days off in a row every week.

    But five 8-hour shifts per week at the bedside? That would be hell on earth for me. I wouldn't want to do it unless I was on the verge of homelessness (or sitting in a cubicle).
  14. by   sandyfeet
    I have to agree with The Commuter. The idea of seeing non-emergent prescription refills, admitting healthy patients to the hospital because they convinced their doc to make it happen, and all of the other annoying misuses I see in the ED 5 times a week is too much to bear. The best part about the 12 hour work day is the 4 days off.
  15. by   ThePrincessBride
    Work a 16-hour shift, and then 12's will seem like nothing. I hate working double shifts and won't do it unless I'm mandated as a nurse (I'm an aide in school).

    Three days a week and four days off is SO much better than five 8's. Depending on how you schedule yourself, you can take mini vacations all the time (like work Sunday, Monday, Tuesday one week and then Thursday, Friday, Saturday the next gives you 8 days off to do something fun without having to take vacation days).

close