How to survive long shifts on placement

Comfortable shoes – this would probably be my number 1 tip for placement! Most ward shifts will be 12+ hours and there is nothing worse than sore feet when you’re on shift. I have Clarks Unloops and find them to be very comfortable, I wear them for placement and 14 hour shifts at my care home job and my feet are always fine. Some people don’t like Unloops, it’s just about finding what shoes work for you. Others recommend Sketchers Go Walks.

Compression socks – standing up for most of a 12+ hour shift can cause achy calves and lower legs, wearing compression socks can really help to avoid this.

Plenty of water – keep a water bottle close by if you are able to do so. Some wards allow water bottles at the nurses station or in a cupboard out of sight. If you are not able to do so, you are allowed to use quiet times to quickly nip for a drink of water. It’s important to keep hydrated especially on long shifts.

A good nights sleep – this helps concentration and also helps you to feel ready for the day. Try to get an early night before a placement shift.

A good breakfast – being hungry doesn’t help concentration or mood (I find this anyway 😂). Try to have something filling such as porridge or toast, this will keep you going until you go on your first break.

Ask your mentor for 5 minutes if you need them, especially on your first placement your mentor will be understanding if you haven’t done long shifts before.

Prepare uniform, bag etc the night before to stop morning stress – you don’t want to be rushing around in the morning getting all your things together and running the risk of forgetting something, prepare your things the night before and you can take your time getting ready in the morning without the stress.

Baby wipes and deodorant – you can use these on your break to freshen up and wipe your face on a night shift if you are feeling tired. Wards can be warm and having deodorant in your bag can be useful for freshening up as well.

You do adjust quickly – after a few long shifts, your body will start to adjust to them and you will start to find them easier.

Don’t over-rely on caffeine – this applies more to night shifts. It can be easier to think that drinking caffeine all night will make it easier to stay awake, this is often not the case. You can ‘crash’ and feel more tired , try to keep hydrated with water and stop drinking caffeine around 4am to help you get to sleep when you get home.

Speak to your mentor if you are struggling – if you are finding the shifts difficult or struggling to cope with 2 or 3 in a row, talk to your mentor. They can split your shifts up (where possible) or possibly spilt a shift so you can do 2 1/2 shifts instead of long days all week. Most mentors will be understanding, especially if it’s your first placement and you are not used to doing long shifts. Ward shifts do tend to be 12+ hours but you do have plenty of placement time to adjust to them.

A long, relaxing bath – I find there is nothing better after a long shift than a red-hot bath with plenty of bubbles and a face mask! This might not work for everyone but find the one thing that helps you to unwind after a long shift.

Mints/chewing gum – I always keep these in my pocket just to freshen my breath after a break (not recommending that you chew gum on placement, just to freshen your breath and then dispose before returning from break). You can even take your toothbrush and toothpaste!

Utilising quiet time – I know this may be rare on some placements, but if you do get a quiet hour in an afternoon use the time wisely. I like to get the BNF out and make notes on common medications used in that placement area, or speak to a patient with a condition you don’t know much information about – patients will often be very knowledgeable about conditions they have managed for years.

Let me know if you have any other good tips!

Love,

T x

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