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How do you build up stamina for 12 hr shifts?

Nurses   (6,993 Views 27 Comments)
by SoundofMusic SoundofMusic (Member) Member

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Ok, I'm a student, and just did my first 12 hr shift. I am embarrassed to say how absolutely fatigued I felt after this. I am just dragging the next day also. My entire BODY just was sore and my feet were on fire from all the standing and walking all day on a med/surg floor. :o (whine)

What are some tips from RNs on how to get through days like this, how to build stamina to pull these shifts?

Admittedly, I am older, in my 40's, but as a mom of three, I thought I was stronger than this. :uhoh3:

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Larry77 has 10 years experience as a RN and specializes in Trauma/ED.

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I'm a very active athletic person who runs/bikes/worksout on a regular basis but when I started in the ED and started 12's for the first time I was feeling just like you. My feet killed me and I could hardly bear coming back the next day but it just got easier with time.

I think it took me about 2 weeks to really get where I didn't feel like I had just ran a marathon. Now to this day on some really busy shifts I still feel a little fatigue the next day but we just keep going.

Just hang in there it will get easier and if you do get breaks take your shoes off and put your feet up--it helps a little. Also make sure that the shoes you do have a very comfortable (I usually switch off between my running shoes and my crocs).

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meownsmile is a BSN, RN and specializes in Med/Surg, Ortho.

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Those of us in our 40's can do it too. I finished my RN when i was 44 and went straight to 12 hour shifts. I do straight days so its twice as hectic as nights. You have to take care of you,, make sure you get your breaks and lunch and get enough sleep. Its usually the lack of sleep that kicks me so i try to make sure i get a good nights sleep at least before the first of my next few days. Take it easy on yourself, and treat yourself right.

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Ophelia78 has 2 years experience and specializes in ICU, L&D, Home Health.

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I go to bed pretty early before a shift- 9-930. I've invested in a good pair of shoes (Z-coils for me, but everyone has their own preference) and I wear compression stockings. I don't skip breakfast. I have a cup or two of Earl Grey during the day. Since I bought the Z-coils my feet have stopped aching. It did take a week or two to adjust to 12s from the 8s I was used to, but it does happen.

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Altra is a BSN, RN and specializes in Emergency & Trauma/Adult ICU.

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Agree w/Larry ... the fatigue you're describing is common and not necessarily a sign of any kind of lack of physical fitness.

It does get somewhat easier with time.

The right pair of shoes is critical. What the "right pair" is varies from person to person. Shoes that are great for walking are not necessarily great for standing.

Take advantage of opportunities to sit, and don't feel guilty about it. Can you sit while you start an IV, explain discharge instructions, etc. ... sneak in some time off your feet whenever you can.

The particular environment of your unit will dictate things like lunch (ha!), breaks and pit stops to use the bathroom & have something to eat or drink.

Good luck to you! :)

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RosesrReder has 13 years experience as a ADN, BSN, RN.

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We have 12 hr clincals and I felt the same at the beginning. You do build tolerance after a while. For me, the busier the better as time seems to fly.

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Burnt Out has 19 years experience as a ASN, RN and specializes in Med-surg; OB/Well baby; pulmonology; RTS.

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I try to generally rest the day before-no heavy housework (if I can help it), relax and rest. I also try to go to bed early. I try to eat breakfast that morning I do work and like a pp said to sit whenever I can!

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645 Posts; 6,093 Profile Views

I started 12 hour shifts when I was in my 20's and I felt just like that. Tired and worn out. My legs hurt like crazy!! It took time to adjust et feel ok. But there were still times that I felt horrible. My favorite thinng to do when I get home is take a hot shower/bath. And if my legs are still hurting, I love ICY/HOT. I could not live without that stuff. It works wonders on tired muscles. Good luck. Hang in there!!

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SueB1967 specializes in PAR,OR, ICU, Peds HH, MS.

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12 hour shifts are a killer-I hit the floor at 7p and never stop except for potty breaks till day shift gets out of report. Once they're over and done I love the days off but frankley I am looking for something with 8 hour shifts. Just 3 years more to retirement-get the picture! Oh No! I meant just 5 years to retirement-I think I need oxygen.

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79 Posts; 2,021 Profile Views

good shoes and lots of rest the night before! I do 4 -12 in a row I feel like I am on a roll then I will get 5 off!! worth it to me and I am 50 years young! I generally go home clean up put on my pjs have a lite supper and off to bed my family understands this is the system I need to be able to go in and give it my 100%But I love love love that time off!

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rpbear specializes in OB.

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Keep yourself well hydrated durring the day. Also, lots of high protien snacks instead of one large lunch works great for me. I do eat lunch but I also eat lots of small snacks like cheese, cereal bars, PB crackers etc. I know it is difficult to sneak in food and drink, but it is the only way I can survive. I don't take a "break" to eat and drink, I will just snack and drink while sitting down to chart, or if I have to run off the unit for something, I will drink along the way. If you don't take care of yourself you are useless to your pts.!!!!

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179 Posts; 5,431 Profile Views

Good shoes are a given....but something I've totally sworn by for 6 years....

THORLO socks. You can order online - also at good sporting good stores. Yep, they are expensive - but there's a reason. They last forever - and nothing has helped my feet and legs like they do. Try just one pair - and you'll never use anything else for work - or sports - or hiking. And really - a 12 hour nursing shift combines all three! They have gentle compression in the arches, extra padding around the toes and heels -

The military uses these. Go to the Thorlo website and read about all the different kinds. I use the 'walking' style. Take a pair to try on with your shoes - you might need to go up a 1/2 size.

All this means is that you have to take care of your FEET first!!! Everything else is on top of them - up to your brain!

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