This article was provided by Travel Nurse Across America.
There’s a lot of great things that come with being a travel nurse. One thing which isn’t always so great, however, is long hours. 12-hour shifts aren’t that uncommon in the nursing world, and if anything, this year has made them even more common. With COVID-19 creating such a large demand for nurses, especially in ICUs, many are being asked to work longer shifts as a result. Therefore, it’s good to know some handy tips which can make those longer shifts a bit easier to manage.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Having to work a long shift can come with some more stress than usual. As such, you don’t want to add on any extra stress if you can help it. A great way to do this is by getting everything you’ll need to prepare the day before. Realizing you’re missing something in the middle of a shift can be a big morale killer. Therefore, try to follow a basic checklist of:
- Having your uniform ready
- Filling up your car’s gas tank
- Making and packing your lunch and snacks
- Filling up a water bottle to use throughout the day
Doing all of this ahead of time will mean you can focus more on your shift and less time worrying about having everything you need.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Working a long shift can already be rough. But trying to work a long shift while tired? That’ll be extra rough. You’re going to want to make sure you’re well-rested ahead of time, so you have all the energy you’ll need. Ideally, it’s best to get 7-9 hours of sleep each day. Avoid caffeine, limit your blue light time, and remove any other possible distractions so you won’t have any trouble getting the sleep you need. It may be useful to invest in things like earplugs and an eye mask to really help you get those z’s in.
Stay Busy…Just Not Too Busy!
There’s going to be some shifts where those hours feel like minutes, and then there will be ones where the minutes feel like hours. When you have those slower shifts, you don’t want to be stuck staring at the wall. Instead, try to find some ways to keep yourself busy. For instance, you can spend some time with patients, see if anyone else needs a hand, or you can reorganize your work area, so you’re ready for when things do pick up again. If there’s nothing to do, it’s handy to have something like a book which you can read to keep you busy, and your brain stimulated at the same time.
Now, in these times, many nurses are finding themselves constantly busy throughout their shifts. Being too busy is a quick way to get burnt out and make your shift harder to get through. This is why it’s key to balance being busy with the occasional break. Use this time to eat your lunch or a quick snack, and rehydrate with some water from your water bottle. Sometimes, all you need is to take a breather to recuperate so you can get ready for whatever’s coming next.
Dress for Comfort
One of the last things you want is to be uncomfortable while working a long shift. The added discomfort can end up causing you to feel fatigued and might even cause you some injuries down the line. What you wear makes a big impact on your ability to remain comfortable throughout the day. While most hospitals have a standard uniform for you to wear, there are some things you have a bit more control over. As an example, it may be good not to wear accessories like necklaces or rings, so that they don’t get caught on anything or cause other problems.
One of the most important things you can do is wear a good pair of compression socks and shoes. Since much of your time is going to be spent standing, you want to be as comfortable as possible when doing so. Compression socks will help protect your legs and feet from getting sore, and comfortable shoes will help give you the support needed to keep up with the constant walking and standing during your shift.
Don’t forget to stay positive! Once those negative thoughts pop in, you can quickly find yourself losing your motivation and energy. Instead, focus on the good work you’re doing, the people you’re helping, and the other perks that come with working long shifts. After all, you’ll have entire days free for you to relax and explore the area that you’re currently in. Use that as some motivation to help keep you going, and your shift will be over before you know it.
This is where it can be good to work with an agency that has a strong Clinical team. When you do have those difficult shifts, reaching out to them for support can be quite valuable. Some agencies even have corporate Chaplains available for when travelers need to talk something out so they can focus more on relaxing during their downtime.
Working long hours can be a bit of a challenge, but they are definitely not impossible to do. By taking steps to make it easier, you’ll be able to power through no problem and spend more time out admiring all the unique things about your current assignment location!