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How to survive a 12-hour NHS hospital shift

How to survive a 12-hour NHS hospital shift

Aug 21, 2020.

If 12-hour shifts are part of your norm, at some point in time your physical and mental health will be at risk if you don’t care for yourself in the best way. At ID Medical, our healthcare professionals’ needs are our top priority, which is why we want to share our five top tips on how to successfully get through a 12-hour NHS hospital shift!

1. First and foremost, we urge you to look after number one, by simply staying organised.

A series of 12-hour NHS hospital shifts in a week won’t leave you very much time to think about cooking, cleaning or running errands. So, why don’t you think ahead of time, get organised, do the important stuff and so when it comes to going to work, you can simply focus on that!


Try Some Cooking

Eating is a necessity, but eating will ensure that you feel happy, energised and positive. We advise for you to look ahead at your schedule and “batch cook” a series of varied meals (to ensure you don’t get bored and go for something more delicious but extremely unhealthy… i.e. microwave meals and pot noodles!!). Why not write down your meals for the week and make sure you’ve already done your food shop in preparation?

By already having your breakfast, lunch dinner and even snacks portioned and ready to go, it just means you don’t have to think about what you’re going to eat when you finish your tiring shift at the hospital. But the bonus is that will either free up time for you to focus on other needs, such as seeing friends or family or some quality you-time, helping you rest and recharge in between shifts.

Separate your meals into different plastic boxes, making sure to get your five a day in there and you could even go one step further by labelling them and so, once again – when it comes to eating, you just don’t need to think!


Clean and Organise the House

There’s nothing worse than getting home after a long-day and the place being an absolute pigsty… Dishes to clean, unmade beds and clutter everywhere will simply lead to unhappiness and stress which can then lead to further mental health problems down the line.

So, before your long-week ahead starts, why don’t you take a day out just to clean, organise and ensure that your home is in a state that you will feel comfortable or happy to return back to after your 12-hour shift! Remember, “A clean home is a happy home!”

2. Exercise

Yes, we are talking about working full 12-hour days here… so, you may be thinking there simply are not enough hours in the day to find time to exercise. But, one quote to live by is “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way and if it’s not, you’ll find an excuse”. So, although exercise may not be at the top of you agenda, by integrating it into your daily routine, it will become a habit and you won’t even need to think about it.

If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s taught us not to take anything for granted. Gyms are out and home workouts are in, which means we need to get more creative.

The wonder of the internet is that there are thousands of free workouts, with different types to meet everyone’s needs. From yoga, HIIT, pilates, treadmill to weights – the choice is yours. If you’re unsure of what your preference is, start on YouTube with a simple “home workout with/without weights” and go from there… you will soon find your niche! Alternatively, you could get out for a nice long walk with a friend – then you’re getting active and being social at the same time! Bonus!

3. Bring the right, but exciting food to eat!

When it comes to working a 12-hour shift, nothing is more exciting than your hour break. You get to refuel, recharge and most importantly, get off your feet! Although you might want to reach for the nearest sugary thing in sight, in the long-run it will only leave you feeling tired, hungry and wanting more of it!

Instead, to get through your shift successfully I would bring foods that are filling, sustainable and that will help keep you going. Such foods include porridge, nuts, yogurt, berries, avocados, meats, boiled eggs, vegetables, fish, hummus, quinoa and if you still want something a little sweet at the end why not opt for a “better version” including dark chocolate, popcorn, fat balls or banana bread!

After eating your delicious meal, we strongly recommend finding a quiet spot to either sleep, meditate, listen to music, read or just to switch off. Working intense hard-core hours will take its toll and so, make sure to calm yourself at some point of the day!

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4. Prioritise your Sleep!

This might seem like an obvious one, but in 2020 we tend to lead pretty hectic lives and so, sleep often seems like one of our last priorities. Yes, we make sure we go to bed every night, but at what time? And how good is your quality of sleep? Is the last thing you see, your phone screen?

By implementing good sleep hygiene into your routine it can lead to tremendous results.

To improve your quality of sleep, the best advice is to make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, at a cool temperature, remove any electronic devices from the bedroom, avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bedtime and as we have already mentioned, exercise!

Improving your sleep hygiene has little cost and virtually no risk, which can counteract your problems of insufficient sleep and insomnia! Helping you get through your next 12-hour shift energised and happy.

5. Last but certainly not least, try and leave your work on time, where you can!

Healthcare professionals are known for staying an extra hour or so once their shift has ended… Of course, sometimes this is essential when there are emergencies and you want to make sure all of the correct information is shared with your colleague taking over… but where possible please do try and leave on time!

A 12-hour NHS hospital shift is long enough and so, why don’t you make it easier on yourself by not leaving everything until the very last minute? You can even start your handover mid-afternoon by starting to write what happened in the morning and then you can simply add different updates as the day goes on! That way, when it comes to home-time you aren’t rushing to write a whole day’s handover as quickly as possible.

Although the jobs themselves don’t take very long, it’s usually the case that you’ll get interrupted and so, starting early just buys yourself time at the end of the shift.

Working 12-hour hospital shifts are the norm for healthcare professionals, but to care for others, it’s essential to care for yourself and this can be done in five simple ways!

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