Thriving on a 12 Hour (Long Day) Shift

by Getrude Orodo

12 hour shifts are called Long Days for a reason.

I am not new to 12 hour shifts. In my last job before relocating to England, I did 12 hour shifts. In fact, to save money and time, I did 24 hour shifts. In that workplace, you could work for as long as your body allows. I saw people do up to 48 hour shifts. I still wish for that level of resilience.

When I relocated to the UK, I expected to ease and breeze through 12 hours shifts since it was not new to me.

Boy was I wrong! These long days are really long.

Through the month of March I have done only days shifts, hence this post For the record, nobody should be working nights. I have never been more productive and energetic as this month.

My typical long day start at 5.30am if I don’t snooze the alarm. My morning routine involves reading the Bible, reading a page or chapter of the book I’m reading at the time while sipping some form of tea. I’ve skipped the part where I rush for a number one as the water for the tea is boiling.

After that, I make my bed then tune to KISS 100 FM (Kenya) as I start to prep for the shift. Most days I am able to catch the last one hour of the conversation and I am really happy that the clocks have now changed and I can listen to Kamene and Obinna as I walk to work. I miss Jalas for sure.

I then shower, pack my lunch and leave the house by 6.40am. My workplace is 20 minutes walk but I am one of the few who use 30 to 40 minutes depending on my mood of the day.

One out of three days I snooze my alarm to between 6.30 up to 7 and skip most of the above steps.

Immediately I get to work, I sort my tools of trade i.e load my pockets with stuff and put my lunch in the fridge. I then proceed to take handover which usually lasts thirty minutes after which the work begins. From there on, its a mixture of luck and teamwork to get through the day.

It is vital to organise yourself so that you can have a smooth day that allows you room to accomodate other people after your shift. There are days when I leave work with little to no energy left to engage or entertain. Such days make me dread having a family.

Apart from this, earlier in the year, I realized that I spend so much time at work (close to 60 hours each week) hence I need to thrive in and not survive my shifts.

Here are a few things I have learnt along the way to breeze through long days:

Prepare Effectively

Preparing the day before is the best thing you can do for yourself before a long day. Preparation starts with the mind and then goes to uniforms, lunch and to-do/goals to achieve. This kind of preparation allows you to have more time in the morning to set the right mood for the day. When you start the day right and organized, you are likely to carry on with that energy. Once upon a time, I would go for dinner and some cocktails before a shift. Its really not worth it, I promise. Unless its a very special occasion that cannot be avoided. Setting some goals to achieve during the shift and even after is also a good way of ensuring you make the most of your shift.

Sleep

I think this is a no brainer. Here is the tricky bit though. Lets say you’ve worked Sunday night and your next shift is Tuedsay long day. You are off on Monday but you have to balance sleep between now and tomorrow. There is no harder test for delayed gratification. You have to stay awake through the day so that you can sleep at night. I have never struggled like such days. My motto for many things in life was always “Kesi Baadaye”. In fact, there is a day I started sleeping at 5am because I couldnt sleep the whole night because I had slept the whole day. Little sleep does not only leave you tired but also irritable. Fatigue, irritabilty and nursing: I leave it for your imagination. What I usually do now is sleep for about three hours then find activities to do, the further away they are from the bedroom the better.

Have a Work Routine

Now that we are well prepared for the day. The next thing is to have a work routine. I have spoke about this in a previous post here. I have planned my breaks for times when I have achieved some milestones for the day. This allows me to have a more restful break. This also helps me to know what I need to do when, enabling my day to be more seamless.

Eat Well

Eating good food at work is another no brainer. There is no better feeling than knowing that you have carried some sweet food for lunch. You will work happily knowing there is a treat waiting for you. I like working Fridays because its Fish and Chips day at our staff cantten and I can treat myself to it . In one of my shifts last week, the emergency buzzer went off just after I set the timer on the microwave to warm my lunch. I learnt earlier on to make sure the first meal I eat on a long day is good enough to take me through some hours because sometimes you don’t get a proper lunch break. Besides, in the morning things are usually slow so you can have sufficient break.

Invest in Footwear

I used to count my steps during long days. Nowadays I can’t be bothered. The most steps I remember making on a shift was about 21 000. This approximately 16kms. I will allow you to estimate how far that is. To do this without straining, you must wear quality shoes with good support. Don’t even think of being stingy with this. I am personally in love with Skechers and for some reason I always shop in the men’s section. Maybe its my shoe size.

Step out for Fresh Air

Stepping out for fresh air can sober you up a bit, especially during winter. Sometimes you need to slow down your brain and getting out of the hospital is the only guaranteed way of achieving this.

Teamwork

You cannot get through a long day without team work. Team work means helping where you can and asking for help when you need it. In the same spirit learn to delegate and say no sometimes. For instance, some doctors are always asking to take bloods. This is not necessarily a nurses job. When I am free to do it, I do it because I love me some venepuncture. However, if I am not I will politely ask the doctor to do it. As a matter of fact, saying no is another way of thriving in your shift.

Using these tips have really made my long days less long.

How do you thrive on you 12 hour shifts/Long Days?

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