The Benefit of Breaking Up Your 12-Hour Nursing Shift with Exercise
As a nurse who works on the floor for twelve hours per shift, I am familiar with the physical fatigue experienced by the end of the day. Nurses are constantly walking to fulfill medication passes, grabbing a cup of ice water for your patient (not to mention a warm blanket here, a warm blanket there), answering call lights, assisting patients to the restroom, tracking down doctors to ask a question, going back and forth to the lab and etc. The list truly can go on and on. When lunchtime rolls around most of us, myself included, make the obvious choice to get off our feet and eat a giant lunch. It feels so good to sit down, right? But what if instead, we challenged ourselves to approach this time of day differently?
Refuel and Refocus
The goal of the lunch break is to refuel, to take a much-needed break from the floor, and to refocus. Even with all the movement, we get on the floor, what if we helped our bodies with something that is the most therapeutic for me: exercise. Yes, I said it. Exercise.
Let me explain. I am not talking about grabbing a kettlebell or doing twenty burpees in the bathroom. It can be so simple you won’t break a sweat. This is more to re-energize your body and mind. It can even be taking a moment to do deep breathing exercises for your body and mind to finish out your shift strong. My favorite combination recently has been taking a walk outside. After eating a small lunch I will step into the sunlight and take a quick walk around the hospital campus for a welcome change of scenery.
If I don’t have enough time to take a walk I squeeze in some quick exercises like ten squats in the bathroom or climbing a few flights of stairs. This might sound strange but I promise you it is just enough to get some endorphins going and make the difference in your day.
Here are some other easy exercises to partake in on your short break
Calf raises. You know the ones where you are standing upright and you raise up to your tiptoes and lower back down to your heels? These are easy to complete ten or so in no time and help work a different muscle group.
Neck stretch. This can be done after eating your lunch sitting in the break room. Slowly rolling your head from side to side can really release a lot of tension from the shift that ends up finding its way in your neck and upper shoulders.
Toe touches. I find that during my shift my back gets sore due to lack of core engagement. Slowly bending over to touch my toes and stretch out my hamstrings can loosen up that muscle and help my back soreness tremendously.
Taking the time during your break to do some exercises doesn’t need to be complex or time-consuming. Of course, there are always those shifts where I just eat my lunch and get caught up on my social media. However, when I know I need an extra boost to make it through the day if I implement even the simplest movement, I feel magically transformed into a likable human again. If you are feeling bogged down mid-shift, give it a try!