How To Stay Focused and Alert During a Long Shift

How To Stay Focused and Alert During a Long Shift

A person’s health needs don’t end at 5 pm every day.

People need access to healthcare around the clock, and with hospitals or 24-hour clinics, they have that available.

That entails having medical professionals like you there at any hour of the day, ready to assist with their health concerns.

As a nurse, you will have patients under your care who you will connect with and become familiar with their condition and needs.

This requires mastering all details of their health condition and treatment methods.

For this reason, and to be available for any walk-in patients entering the hospital or clinic around the clock, the 12-hour shift exists.

You may have a love-hate relationship with the 12-hour shift.

They shorten your workweek, allow you to bond with your committed patients, and there are usually a few hours of quiet when you can tend to duties that often get neglected during busy periods.

However, this is a long shift where you will find your energy drained, making it increasingly difficult to stay focused and productive.

This could have consequences as being unable to focus makes it easier to get stressed or overwhelmed and then make mistakes.

Fortunately, there are some strategies you can implement to help you overcome this.

Here is how you can make sure to say alert and focused during your lengthy 12-hour shift:


A cup of coffee or tea is a helpful tool to stimulate your brain and make it alert when you feel you need the extra kick.

However, this isn’t the only answer to keeping you alert.

If you only rely on caffeine for alertness during your shift, you may find yourself only experiencing the negative effects, like a sore stomach, feelings of anxiety or nervousness, or shakiness.

During your long shift, it’s best to have a cup of caffeine as you begin in order to help your mind adjust to your shift setting and be ready to focus over the next handful of hours.


While you enter your shift hoping for the best, you never can know what to expect.

Facing this unpredictability and being in the thick of a fast-paced, life-impacting field can be highly stressful.

However, with stress comes lost focus. Your brain could become overwhelmed, which will cloud your judgment and emotional control.

Breathing techniques will help calm your physiology and clear your mind so it can stay focused on your workload.

For some, all it takes is 30 seconds or one minute to stop and take a few controlled breaths.

You can do this consistently throughout your long shift, or especially as you notice your nerves getting worse.

This will reduce tension and anxiety for you to carry on through your busy shift.

Take Advantage of Breaks

Your day will be full of receiving a lot of detailed medical information.

There is plenty for your brain to process throughout your shift.

Your break is not only essential for allowing your brain time to restore and organize what it’s been learning throughout the day, but it also offers an opportunity to re-energize.

It’s natural that during long 12-hour shifts, your body will naturally become tired according to its circadian rhythm.

Your break is the prime chance to do something that will give it a boost of energy, so you’re more alert for the rest of your day.

Consider taking a walk outside, having a cup of coffee or tea, socializing, or meditating.

These activities don’t require too much energy or thought, so your brain can continue restoring while you stimulate it.

Light Snacks and Lunches

During your breaks, you will want to feed your body and brain with foods that boost their functioning.

Heavy, greasy, sugary foods will require your body to work harder to digest, which could drain your energy.

That’s why choosing light, easy-to-digest foods will give you the fuel you need so you can endure your long shift.

Consider snacks with grains, protein, low-glycemic index, and vitamins that will support your health and keep you functioning efficiently.

Satisfying your hunger is also important for eliminating the distraction of a grumbling stomach or the tired sensation that results from low blood sugar.

Sleep Enough Before a Shift

It’s important that you’ve gotten sufficient rest before your shift, so you enter it refreshed and restored.

You’ll have more consistent energy, and you’ll be more able to concentrate or stay focused.

Working for long periods after having enough sleep before will also help you cope in any stressful situation and keep your emotional reactions leveled.

Whether you work 3 pm-3 am, or 7 am-7 pm, you will want to adjust your sleep scheduling to fit in around 7-9 hours of sleep to feel properly rested.

If you get home in the middle of the morning, get to sleep fast when arriving home.

If coming off of a shift at 7 pm, try to stay awake a little longer and then allow yourself to fall asleep within a few hours.

Remain Positive

Whether working 8 hours, 12 hours, or longer, these strategies can help you keep your mind and body alert and energized for a productive shift.

To further help you through these days, stay positive.

Carry a motivating mantra or intention throughout your shift that you can always focus your mind on when feeling stressed or tired.

Tricking your mind to stay positive with affirmations or positive thoughts will be a helpful way to boost your mood and brain functioning.

You can carry this positive mindset when learning new things in the medical field, too.

After a long shift, it will be tough to force yourself to understand new concepts.

With ProMed Certifications, you can pick up your ACLS, PALS, BLS, or CPR, AED, and First Aid training at any time as we save your progress.

Our online ProMed programs allow you to fit this useful training into your busy schedule.

That way, you can allow yourself to restore after a long shift and continue your training when you have the energy and capacity for learning.


Learn more about ProMed Certifications, offering training anywhere at any time, by visiting our website today.