Tips and Tricks to Survive Your First 12-Hour Shift


The knowledge you gain in nursing school is enough to get you started on your career path, but nothing can fully prepare you for the weight of your first real shift. In fact, even long-time nurses can be put off their game by the prospect of moving from 8-hour shifts to a 12-hour schedule. If you’ve never worked a 12-hour shift before, seeing that first big day looming on your calendar can be nerve-wracking, but there’s no need to be concerned. With these tips, you’ll be ready to make a success of your first day on the job.

Preparing for your first 12-hour shift

1. Get extra rest

Whether you work days or nights, your first extended shift will be harder to deal with than what you’re used to. If you’re expecting to be able to power through the whole day on little rest, get ready to be surprised. While 12-hour shifts present several advantages over traditional schedules (such as fewer workdays per week), the days you do work will leave you little free time outside of sleeping and work – if you take the first one seriously, the second will be a dream!

2. Choose the right shoes

Your nursing unit might be small, put you can put in some serious mileage during a long shift. The wrong shoes will have you begging for mercy long before it’s time to clock out, so you need to choose wisely. Look for shoes that are supportive and well-cushioned, as hard hospital floors are unforgiving on your feet and joints.

3. Plan your meals

As difficult as it is to plan your meals on a normal full-time schedule, working long shifts takes an extra toll on your plans. If you don’t plan well, you might find yourself eating all three meals from the hospital cafeteria, or even worse, from a vending machine!

Planning healthy meals is key to avoiding the health problems that are often associated with working 12-hour shifts. Though the work can be demanding, the right meal choices will keep your energy levels high no matter what.

4. Make good use of your breaks

Four hours may not sound like a long time, but there is a significant difference between getting through an 8-hour workday versus a full 12. Pacing yourself and taking breaks when necessary is crucial to making a success out of this schedule. Instead of simply taking a breather at the nurse’s station, take a few minutes to step off the unit, or even outside, if possible. Even a few minutes to clear your head and catch your breath will do wonders for your sanity on a long day.

5. Stay positive!

Even though long shifts are daunting, they have some significant perks you can take advantage of. In fact, the extra time you have to complete your assigned tasks and documentation can make your day much less stressful, and most nurses agree that their 12-hour shifts are generally less hectic than their previous schedules. If you make good use of the above tips, you’ll find you’re more productive on your long days than ever before.

What’s your ideal schedule?

No matter where you work, making good use of your time is the key to success. We developed the Nurse Backpack app because we know your time is valuable – the less time you spend on paperwork, the more time you have for what matters.

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Nurse Backpack is a free mobile application that enables professional credential management for end-users themselves. Alerts, reminders, resume package building and sending is possible for free from the mobile app. Built for nurses originally, school nurses, nursing students, lifeguards and many other professionals also use the app for their license and credential management.