How to Survive a 12-Hour Shift


by Holly Beal, RCPhT

During your career, you will more than likely endure a 12-hour shift.

Are you already asking yourself, “How will I survive a 12-hour shift?”

Well, there may be a time you may want the extra hours, or you may be asked on the spot to stay and help the team out. Either way, surviving a 12-hour shift is not as bad as it may seem. I will share a few helpful tips on surviving a 12- hour shift no matter the circumstances!

So, you have agreed to work extra hours at work. This can be a little overwhelming if you have never worked longer than 8 hours before.

Prepping the night before your 12-hour shift can give you peace of mind, such as working out, or even packing an extra lunch, snacks, and water.

Working out daily can increase your metabolism and energy levels, making getting through those long dreadful shifts easier.

Having enough water to stay hydrated for your shift is extremely important. I often forgot to drink water at work until I realized the lack of water made me extremely tired, and I would lose all motivation. Staying hydrated throughout your shift will boost your energy levels so you don’t feel as exhausted and give you the motivation you need to get through your shift.

Use your lunch breaks to eat and relax. Doing too much on your breaks and not getting enough food to fuel your body can bring on unnecessary stress, affect your mood, and cause fatigue. And let’s be honest… who wants to feel like that during a long shift?

Take full advantage of your 15-minute breaks during your 12-hour shift. We often work through these and don’t think much of it, but it will give you time to regroup, make a phone call if needed, and eat a snack to fuel your body.

If you are taken by surprise while at work and agree to stay for a 12-hour shift without having the time to prep. There are still some essential things you can do to survive.

I would still make sure to stay hydrated. This will boost your energy levels, and you need the energy to survive 12-hour shifts.

Don’t forget to take those 15-minute breaks you get to regroup. Use this time wisely and to your advantage. Even take a short walk around the block. Physical activity can also increase your energy, especially if you don’t work out regularly.

Also, during a 12-hour shift, you will even get an additional lunch break. Use this time to go and get something to eat, preferably something healthy that will fuel your body and increase your energy levels. I would try to prevent you from getting any coffee at this point because you do not want to crash since you only have a few hours left, so stay busy!

It will be over before you know it. Mind over matter can make a difference as well.

Overall working a 12-hour shift may have its challenges, but there is nothing you can’t do if you remember to take care of yourself and take advantage of your breaks. This will make it easier for you to survive a 12-hour shift and keep you coming back for more.

For tips on how to better improve your workflow during your shift, you can read our blog titled "How to Improve Your Workflow in the Pharmacy". 


Helpful links:

Wellbeing - National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA)