How to Stay Healthy and Sane During Long Hospital Shifts


Your hospital shift is winding down, and you finally take a break. You duck outside for a breath of fresh air just in time to see the sun rising in the east. Well, isn’t that special! It looks like you’ve been up all night again, pulling a long shift in the hospital.  

As a medical professional, you’ve probably seen the sunrise more times than you can remember – but it’s a fact of life for many hospital and urgent care employees. Despite the obvious downsides, 12-hour (and longer) shifts remain popular, and some workers in medical jobs even prefer them.   

The grueling hours can take their toll on your body, mind and life, so how can you ensure your mental and physical health? Here are four tips to help you survive those extra-long shifts with your sanity and health in good shape. 

Find a Sleep Schedule that Works for You 

One way to ensure a strong mind and body is to get enough sleep.  Some traveling healthcare workers can switch between day shift and night shift simply by taking long naps the day before they work (e.g., sleep 10 pm – 6 am and nap 3 pm – 5 pm). If you find you’re unable to take naps, try sleeping in late the morning before you work (e.g., sleep 2 am – 10 am). You may also find that your body functions better with only a partial switch in your sleep schedule, so you stay up later at night and sleep later in the day, even on your days off.  

Caffeine is Good (in Moderation) 

Drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages is good – as long as you’re not constantly craving your next Grande Café Americano, or otherwise bouncing off the hospital walls. Many medical professionals count on coffee or other caffeine products to keep from nodding off, and that’s fine. But if you find yourself chugging coffee all day, or relying on caffeine as a substitute for sleep,it might be hurting instead of helping. Too much can make you jittery, and harder to wind down and fall asleep once your shift is done. It’s good practice to cut back the caffeine after the first two or three hours of work and avoid it for the last half of your shift.  

Don’t Forget to Drink Water 

While caffeine can help keep you alert, don’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout your shift. Your body is made of over 60% water, and water fuels almost every bodily function. The average woman should drink approximately 2.7 liters of water daily, and the average man should drink 3.7 liters. If you’re not a fan of plain water, try adding slices of fruit for some extra flavor. 

Fuel Your Body 

Okay, so weve covered the liquids, now let’s talk about keeping your fuel level high. And that means not working on an empty stomach. Studies have shown that hunger can be just as bad as not getting enough sleep or liquids. So be sure you take breaks for regular healthy meals and snacks. If you’re in a rush, keep a stash of high-protein nibbles, like nuts, beef jerky, or energy bars, on hand.  

At Focus Staff, we understand the ins and outs of traveling healthcare professionals and have access to a wide variety of excellent professional opportunities. To learn more, contact us today.   

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