6 Tips on How to Overcome the Challenges of Working Long Shifts

There are many benefits to nursing, but working extremely long shifts is not one of them. Here are a few pointers to help you get through them.

There’s not a nurse in the world who doesn’t struggle to overcome fatigue at some stage during a long shift. A long shift is considered to be any shift that is longer than 9 hours in length. Tiring work, emotionally draining cases, and unsociable hours can feel like the perfect storm. While you’re going to get tired, I want to show you it doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. Take a look at the following half a dozen tips from the pros, and you’ll be able to master the art of long shifts in no time at all.

Take a little time to treat yourself

What you do outside of work is just as important as when you’re on the ward. You need to be taking care of yourself, but it’s something that can be hard to find time for. The secret is to start imagining yourself as an athlete. Considering how physically demanding nursing can be, you already sort of are an athlete. Athletes would never fail to find the time to eat healthy, rest, and stretch, and you should never cut corners when it comes to the things that will make you look and feel great. Something as simple as pampering yourself can make all the difference to your state of mind and those all-important energy levels. Make the time for it, and before you know it, you’ll have formed a habit for a lifetime.

Lay off the sugary drinks 2 hours before bed

Sugary drinks certainly give you an instant burst of energy, but the problem is the comedown is twice as hard. Towards the end of a long shift, sugary drinks will likely cause you to begin feeling tired. You want to avoid them as much as possible, particularly in the 2 hours before you’re due to get some well-deserved shuteye. It’s no use clocking off after a mammoth shift only to be wide awake for hours in bed. Fuel your body the right way so that you can drift off the moment your head hits the pillow, and you’ll feel far better for it in the morning.

6 Tips on How to Overcome the Challen...

Avoid blue screens when you can

Blue light stimulates the brain and keeps you awake, and that’s no good if you’re trying to get some sleep when you finish your long shift. You’re going to have to use screens and monitors when you’re at work, and there’s just no getting away from that, but you do have complete control over what you do when you get home. It can be so tempting to base yourself on the couch for an hour and scroll through Facebook, but all that’s doing is keeping you awake longer than your body would like. Resist the urge by leaving your phone in the other room and picking up a book for 20 minutes instead. Once you start getting drowsy, that’s the time to head up to bed and drift off.

Napping in the day is better than sleeping in late

It’s so tempting to have a huge lie-in after a late or long shift, but that’s not always the best idea. Lying in bed will throw your body clock even further off than your shift, and it’ll make it even harder to muster the energy you need for the rest of the day. There are always going to be times when you simply can’t stay awake another minute, so nap for 20 minutes and then start moving around the moment you wake. A couple of short naps will do you far more good than a 3-hour snooze on the couch.

Get in shape to give yourself more energy

Getting in shape is probably the last thing you feel like doing when you’re working a long shift after a long shift, but it really will give you more energy and vitality. You’ll be fitter so you can deal better with the exertions of your job, and you’ll have regular doses of endorphins. This will lift your mood, improve your self-image, and generally just make you feel great about yourself. There’s nothing better than being able to look in the mirror and know you’re the one who made the smart choices every day.

Make the most of the time you’re not working

The problem with long shifts is you can easily feel like you do nothing but work. The important thing to remember here is that’s just not the case in reality. You still have time to do the things you enjoy, you just need to focus a little more than people who work easier hours. Making the most of your spare time is what life is all about, and it’ll give you plenty of good memories over the years. Plan regular days out and catchups so you always have something in your diary.


Now that you’ve heard how you can conquer those dreaded long shifts, why not pick a couple of points to start putting into action? They’ll be easier to turn into habits than you think, and you’ll love the positive impact they have on your life.

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