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How to Fully Recover From a 12 Hour Shift

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July 18, 2023

12 hour shift

It’s crazy to think that since the pandemic, the suicide rate of nurses was double the rate of women in the general population. Working a 12 hour shift can be so physically and mentally demanding, with reports of nurses driving off a cliff immediately after their shift and even jumping off the roof of the hospital.


Even though these are extreme scenarios, they happen. It’s crucial to prioritize your recovery to prevent burnout and maintain your overall health. This negative outcome of suicide is something that seems to develop over time. Nurses are extremely overworked and under cared which leads to their high anxiety and burnout.


Continue reading to learn the latest effective strategies to help you fully recover after a demanding 12 hour shift.


Strategy to Hydrate and Nourish Your Body During Your 12 Hour Shift


Due to the high responsibility demand of nurses during their shifts, quality breaks are a luxury that most nurses don’t get. Performing repetitive and strenuous tasks without proper hydration or nutrition is detrimental not only for the nurse but for their patients.


Proper hydration and nutrition play a vital role in your cognition, focus, memory, physical ability and so many other key components that nurses utilize. Prioritizing drinking plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated, can help you better your own health and the health of your patients.


Avoid relying on sugary or processed foods or drinks, because they can lead to energy crashes. Consuming fresh fruits and protein-dense snacks like apples and protein bars during your shift can provide essential vitamins and minerals to support your overall function during your 12 hour shift and your recovery process after.


12 hour shift


Incorporate Stretching and Mobility Exercises After Your 12 Hour Shift


Long periods of sitting or standing can cause muscle stiffness and discomfort. The demands of nurses during their 12 hour shifts are pretty brutal. Not only do they perform an array of challenging repetitive tasks but they are relied upon by almost every other staff in the hospital.


Over time this unhealthy pattern can cause damage to the body and mind. A practical solution would be implementing mobility exercises before, during, and even after one’s shift. Mobility training done right can have dual benefits as it helps to alleviate muscle and joint tension as well as improve range of motion which helps with weak and tight muscles.


Additionally, mobility training practiced with intentional deep breathing and mindfulness can ease mental tension and cognitive fog according to Ascend Health.


Take short breaks during your shift to stretch and perform simple mobility exercises. Focus on areas prone to tension, such as your neck, shoulders, back, and legs. This will help improve blood circulation, alleviate muscle tightness, and promote overall comfort.


Practice Relaxation Techniques


Incorporating relaxation techniques into your post-shift routine can help you unwind and alleviate stress. Deep breathing exercises, mobility, and stretching exercises, getting a massage, or mindfulness meditation are excellent techniques to promote relaxation.


Now I understand this is much easier said than done. Coming home post a 12 hour shift the only thing you’re probably thinking about is your comfy bed. But I guarantee you you will get better sleep and all-around more optimal rest when you include some of these techniques as soon as possible after your 12 hour shift.


Find a quiet and comfortable space where you can dedicate a few minutes to these practices. Deep breathing, in particular, can help regulate your heart rate and activate the body’s relaxation response.


12 hour shift




Recovery is so critical for optimal wellness especially if you are working a 12 hour shift. It’s essential to implement these strategies and prioritize your well-being in order to become a better nurse and save your health.


These proven methods are key to helping you fully recover from a 12-hour shift and approach your work with renewed energy and focus.





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No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other licensed clinicians.


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