4 Tips for Handling a Long Shift


Health workers are human. Everyone needs to eat, sleep, and have some time for themselves, but it’s difficult to adhere to a set routine when you are caught up in the typical hospital work environment. Long shifts can be a common occurrence at work, so we put together several tips you can use to survive the day (or night) while offering the best quality care to your patients.

Prepare Your Body Days in Advance

If you are working a long shift that messes with your sleeping schedule, you will want to prepare your body for the sudden switch in circadian rhythms. That means changing what time you go to bed and what time you wake up at least three days beforehand. While you will always feel a little off during long working hours, it will be far better than feeling dazed or loopy.

Drink Water

Many people already have trouble keeping themselves hydrated on a regular day. In a high-stress situation like a long shift, you will most likely be walking all over the hospital or clinic expected to focus for hours at a time. Water is an excellent way to keep your energy up and to stay focused. Make sure you also bring real food with you. A big bag of chips may sound convenient at first, but you know better than anyone that having a natural meal will do wonders for your mood. In the long run, salty and sugary foods often end up harming more than helping.

Make the Most of Your Breaks

Whether it is a favorite song, a good book, or meditating in an out-of-the-way room, everyone has their method to help them relax. Find what your favorite activity is and take the time to reward yourself during the brief break in the middle of a long shift. Avoid the more stressful media like action movies or high energy games. Anything that requires intense focus or puts you on alert ends up missing the point of why you’re taking a break in the first place. If you are keen to napping, a 20-minute nap break during a 10-hour shift can help with your performance for the second half of your work.

Plan a Pickup

At the end of everything, you will be tired. Although driving while tired may not sound as dangerous as drunk driving, it still leads to hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries every year. Don’t risk hurting yourself on the road, especially when you may be on edge after working for several hours straight. Ask a friend to pick you up when you finish, plan out bus routes, or call a taxi or other service to drive you home.

Working a long shift in the hospital will never be easy for most people. While there may be some nurses out there who love the challenge, it’s important to keep in mind that you are doing the work to help others feel better. Remember to take care of yourself and look out for signs where you may need to sit down for five minutes. If you are a travel nurse who needs a change in working environment, take a look at our list of available travel nursing openings throughout the country.