Staying Healthy as a New Nurse

Nurses General Nursing


Specializes in PICU.

I try to eat healthy and exercise, but as a brand new nurse, I'm finding this schedule super challenging to work with! When I work 12 hours, and have just a 30 minute lunch break during the day, by the time I get home at night I'm starving, and just eat everything in sight! I know this is not healthy. How do y'all do your meals during 12 hour shifts and what do you eat in the evening then when you get home? What does a typica day of eating during a 12 hour shift look like for you? I'm trying to avoid gaining weight and also fatigue during long shifts! I want to be healthy so I can care for my patients the best I can :)

Thanks for any ideas!

Commenting as a CNA that does 12s on the regular - Meal prep!

If you have healthy meals premade, you're less likely to reach for something unhealthy. I freeze all of my meals and have a wide variety of foods that are nutrient dense and reheat in the microwave really well. As for food while I'm at work, sometimes I don't have the time to eat lunch, but I'll pack things that are very easy to get bites of every now and again - sandwiches cut into small squares, protein bars, nuts etc. Once you've been running shifts a while you might find that your eating pattern changes and you don't feel as hungry during work. It took me a few weeks/around a month to stop feeling quite so ravenous while I was at work, but God help my fridge when i got home ;) haha

Although it's a total bummer to think that you might not be able to get 30 minutes of uninterrupted time, at least if there's snacks in your bag you'll have something that can take away the "hangries" and end up shoving unhealthy food in your mouth that you regret, so you can keep plugging along. I keep non-perishable snacks in my bag: protein bars, nuts, whole wheat crackers, bottled water and restock once a week. If you get enough protein and avoid the sugar it can help in not having the mid day slump. I also invested in a thermal lunch box so I can bring a lunch from home since leaving the unit to get something to eat takes another chunk out of your already limited break time.

On the days that I work, I try to have easy dinners planned out. If you can prepare some sort of protein in advance (hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken breast, lunch meat, cubed cheeses) and buy a box of lettuce that's already been triple washed, it's pretty to throw together a quick salad. I find this meal not to be too heavy on my stomach before falling asleep after working 12 hours. Another easy option for dinner is a bowl of soup or a small organic frozen meal. Save making more elaborate meals for your days off and maybe you'll have some leftovers to take to work. Planning ahead definitely helps to make better food choices. Good Luck!

Specializes in IMCU, Oncology.

When I worked 12 hour shifts, I would drink premade protein shakes during my shift. I like Orgain.

Keep a cooler with food in your car to eat on the way home also.

Switching to 6 or 8 small (200 cal) meals a day has made a world of difference. My work performance doesn't suffer because I'm hungry, and I have better control over my weight (in the long term) and blood sugar (over the course of the day), which both tend to drop when I work 12's and am very active.

What I've found since switching to 12's is that during those shifts, food becomes much more about fuel and less about what tastes good. I am happy with a salad or a couple hardboiled eggs as a meal, whereas on a normal day I crave carbs.

When you are off, prepare large quantities of healthy food.

Take the time to eat. This is entirely different from taking an actual break. It is extremely rare that there truly is not enough time to eat.

Look at it this way- If you were really busy, and you had to poop, what would you do? Would you just let loose in your scrubs, or would you take as much time as needed to do the job right, including the paperwork? Rhetorical question, I am quite sure I know which choice you would make, but you get the point.

Looking at it a different way- any time you go into a room, you could end up taking 5 minutes longer than expected. And nobody dies as a result. (usually.) You spend the five minutes needed, because it is needed. So is your eating right.

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