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A day in a life of a nurse in the UK – how to get through a 12-hour shift

It’s not easy to work as a nurse. The job entails a lot of major responsibilities such as attending to the needs of a patient, providing medical assistance before and after an operation, administering medication, and assessing care requirements.

Shift usually lasts for at least 12 hours depending on the current number of staff on board and the patients needing medical attention.

If you’re having a hard time lasting through your 12-hour shift, we created a list of practical and simple to follow tips that can help you.

Hydration is the key

If you’re assigned on placements, you will most likely have plenty of 12-hour work shifts. To prepare yourself for the long schedule, we recommend drinking plenty of water.

You can bring a large water bottle that you can refill all throughout your schedule. You can put it in the fridge or place ice in it to encourage yourself to drink more.

Drinking water will prevent your throat, lips and skin from drying up most especially during a hectic day. Try to drink more than eight glasses a day.

Bring snacks with you

Energy bars and drinks may be able to give you a temporary energy boost, but they do contain high amounts of sugar that can cause trigger multitude of health problems in the long run.

Instead of consuming energy snacks, hardworking nurses like you need to bring nutritious high-energy and high-protein snacks. A few examples of snacks you can bring with you at work include:

  • Hummus – A plant-based protein packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and anti-inflammatory ingredients.
  • Cottage cheese – A protein-rich food that promotes cardiac health, improves blood sugar levels, and improve digestion.
  • String cheese – Although string cheese often gets a bad rap for its high amount of fat and calories, it’s still the best source of protein, vitamin D and calcium.
  • Nuts – This is one of the most common snacks eaten by nurses. It contains a lot of protein, omega 3 oils, magnesium and antioxidant.
  • Hard-boiled eggs – Experts suggest eating no more than one hard boiled egg a day. It contains enough nutrition to last you for a few hours.
  • Turkey roll-ups – Turkey is a lean type of meat. A small slice contains B vitamins, phosphorous and a number of essential minerals that can boost your energy levels.
  • Edamame – Apart from providing your protein, edamame also contains antioxidants, vitamin K and fibre. It can help minimise your risk of developing heart problems.
  • Salmon jerky – It contains high amounts of omega 3 that can improve brain function and induce blood flow. It’s also rich in B vitamins that can help you maintain superb nerve function.
  • Veggies – Pack a good serving of carrots, broccoli, and sugar snap peas so you can get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals and stay sharp and alert even when you work for long hours.

Because nurses rarely get long meal times, it’s ideal to bring snacks to help you last the day. Focus on bringing tiny bits of snacks that you can munch on when you get the chance.

Work on your sleep cycles

Most nurses struggle in managing their sleeping habits. Sometimes, they wake up way too early and feel too tired and drained the entire day because they didn’t get enough sleep.

We recommend using a mobile app that lets you monitor your sleep cycle. Check how many hours you go on a “light sleep” and try adjusting your sleeping time. Find the right sleeping schedule that will best suit your preference.

Invest in comfy shoes

Because you spend a lot of time walking and running around your assigned stations, you need to consider investing in a pair of comfy shoes. Check the quality of the material and consider the thickness and softness of the sole.

Some of the famous brands used by many nurses all over the world include Dansko, Alegria, Sketchers, Klogs and Crocs.

When you purchase a pair of shoes you should consider the following factors:

  • Stability and support – It’s absolutely important to have shoes that offer solid stability and support. The pair of shoes should provide enough support for your ankles and toes. Otherwise, you will suffer from cramps and leg pain.
  • Slip resistance – If you work in areas where liquids always get spilt, we highly recommend buying a pair of slip-resistant shoes.
  • Comfort and weight – Avoid buying clunky and heavy shoes. these can severely affect your mood and performance the entire shift.
  • Work function – Buy shoes based on the activities you usually engage in at work. For example, you need to lift heavy objects frequently? Do you need to stand for long hours? You may consult with a seasoned podiatrist to find the best pair of shoes for you.
  • Price and product warranty – Do take note that not all pricey shoes are good shoes. Always research the product beforehand.
  • Shape and design – Check the shape and design and make sure that both shoes fit like a glove.

If you have negative experiences in any of these areas, we suggest finding a new pair of shoes.

Drink vitamins each day

Registered nurse jobs can be physically and emotionally demanding, tiring and stressful. In order to cope with everything happening around you, we suggest drinking vitamins.

If you have enough vitamins and minerals in the body, you will less likely suffer from severe bouts of stress and fatigue. You can provide the best care to your patients if you stay in tip-top shape every day.

Maximize your breaks

Instead of eating your food in the nursing station, try to spend a few minutes away from your unit. You can try walking to the cafeteria or spend a few minutes in the nearby cafe. This way you can recharge a bit before you go back to complete your shift.

Don’t forget to fill your tummy during your breaks. You should eat enough food so you can improve your performance and provide optimum services.

Balance your work and personal life

While it may sound cliche, balancing work and personal life is one of the most effective ways you can increase productivity and boost performance.

Keep tabs of everything by maintaining a well-organised calendar. Make room for your loved ones and yourself so you can avoid getting burnt out.

Stay active as much as you can

Spending a few hours in the gym after a long day at work may seem like a terrible idea but in truth, it’s an effective way to energize yourself.

Studies prove that working out can increase energy, control weight and relieve stress. up with a yoga studio or a local gym and start leading an active life.

Avoid drinking too much caffeine during late night shifts

As a nurse who tends to work on late hours of the night, it’s quite easy to become dependent on caffeine.

However, you must take note of the detrimental effects on your nervous system and your sleeping patterns. Research reveals that too much caffeine six hours before you sleep results in diminished sleep quantity and quality.

Don’t forget about your mental health

Aside from physical stress, nurses also suffer from mental health issues because of the death of a patient and a terrible workload. Take care of your mental well-being by spending time on your passion projects.

Do you have a hobby? Do you like painting? crocheting? Paintballing? You should schedule a few hours each month to embrace other things aside from your job.

While it’s challenging to work as a nurse, it’s one of the most fulfilling jobs in the world. Nursing jobs are in demand and there are many strands you can choose from. There’s an increase in demand for care home nurses and mental care nurses, to name a few.

At the end of the day, what matters most is that you’re happy. A 12-hour shift might be daunting but when you think about the love you share in every single moment – the stress will surely fade away.

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