12-Hour Days: Tips for Getting Through a Long Shift


There are many great benefits of working in the allied health field – the satisfaction of helping others, making an impact in the lives of your patients, and the excitement that comes with working in a medical facility, just to name a few. There are, however, a number of challenges as well. One such challenge for many healthcare professionals is the long hours, especially for those who regularly work shifts of 12 hours or more. Next time you find yourself working into the wee hours, keep these tips in mind:

  • Make sure you are eating plenty of healthy and high-energy foods to make it through the day. Stay away from the vending machines and, instead, plan ahead. Bring portion-sized containers of pasta and sandwiches, and keep foods on hand to snack on throughout the day, like fresh fruits, veggies, and nuts.
  • Take care of yourself with nutritional supplements, like fish oil and vitamin B. Omega-e fatty acids are crucial to brain cell development, and vitamin B has been shown to enhance memory and decrease fatigue.
  • Avoid drinking coffee. While caffeine may provide a quick burst of energy, you will find yourself crashing a few hours later – eventually you will be tired no matter how much coffee you drink.
  • Remember to get plenty of sleep. For those working nights, try to make your home as dark as possible to simulate the time of day when one typically goes to bed. Health professionals who often work at night or work irregular shifts are at risk of developing Shift Work Sleep Disorder, or SWSD. It is important to create for yourself a dark, quiet environment that promotes uninterrupted sleep.

So whether you’re a Medical Assistant working a long, hectic day at an urgent care clinic or a Pharmacy Technician working the counter at a 24-hour drug store, try out a few of these helpful hints for maintaining your energy and staying on your toes during an extended shift.

Information in this blog post is accurate as of October 10, 2012.