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7 Easy Self-Care Tips for 12-hour Nursing Shifts

by CoreMedical Group


You’ve chosen one of the most selfless career paths. As a nurse, you devote every working day to taking care of others (and most likely, on your off days as well). Serving in a profession that is riddled with long shifts, high stress, few breaks, and little time to catch your breath between patients, it’s important to make yourself a priority.

You may be thinking, “Sure, that sounds easy in theory, but I don’t have time to prioritize myself!” We have good news: small changes can make a big impact. Whether you’re completing a travel nursing contract or working full-time at a healthcare facility, we’ve compiled 7 easy self-care tips to help you feel energized when you face those infamous 12-hour shifts.

7 Easy Self-Care Tips for Nurses

1. Create a Tranquil Sleep Space

This is a big one. We all know we need adequate sleep. For most, that means at least 7 hours per night. But did you know that some of your before-bed activities can really diminish the quality of your sleep?

We’re all guilty of binge-watching shows or scrolling social media on our phones. But it’s keeping us from quality sleep! Not only because we aren’t closing our eyes, but because the blue light generated from these screens suppresses our melatonin (the hormone that helps us sleep). If you’re set on watching and scrolling, then blue light glasses may be the best solution for you. But if you’re open to other alternatives, consider reading or listening to a book before bed instead.

Other tips for creating a tranquil sleep space include…

  • Wearing a sleep mask (especially if you’re resting during the day)
  • Diffusing essential oils (like lavender or cedarwood)
  • Moving your phone at least 3 feet away from your bed
  • Incorporating ambient noise to lull you to sleep
  • Buying that extra pillow or mattress topper you need to sleep comfortably (because you’re worth it)

2. Make Movement a Priority

If you can find time to exercise every day while working 12-hour shifts, that’s commendable. But for many, it’s just not realistic. The key is to make movement a priority.

Exercise on your off days. That could mean going to the gym, walking up and down your apartment stairs, taking a hike, going for a run, cycling, or completing a HIIT workout at home. On your workdays though, try to incorporate stretching, yoga, or meditation. This could be a great way to start your day with a positive attitude and mindset!

3. Limit Your Caffeine Intake

Yes, you can still have caffeine! Truthfully, I couldn’t imagine working three days of 12-hour shifts without it. But which caffeinated beverages we consume and when we consume them makes a difference. An excess of caffeine can actually cause insomnia. So, if you think you’ll need an added jolt to make it to the end of your day, consider grabbing that extra coffee a little earlier rather than later so your sleep doesn’t suffer.

Most gravitate to coffee for extra energy, but the world of tea is vast and can be just as delicious. Consider enjoying green tea for your caffeine boost. It’s healthier and contains powerful antioxidants.

4. Wear Compression Socks

As a nurse, you probably already invest in quality, comfortable shoes. But have you taken your footwear to the next level with compression socks?

Compression socks can prevent foot, leg, and ankle swelling, keep away those dreaded varicose veins, and improve your blood circulation. Hopefully, if your feet are taken care of with snuggly socks and supportive shoes, you can end those 12-hour shifts with a little more pep in your step.

5. Consider Therapy

Self-care is more than physically taking care of yourself; it’s taking care of your mental health too. You don’t need to have something troubling you to seek mental healthcare. In fact, it’s proactive to begin working on your mental health when you’re not facing an issue.

Travel nurses completing contracts with CoreMedical have access to mental health benefits for themselves and their families from the first day of any assignment.

6. Keep a Gratitude Journal (or Jar)

Starting each day with a grateful heart can make such a difference in our overall attitude and stress levels. Consider keeping a daily gratitude journal. If writing in a journal seems too daunting, start a gratitude jar. Simply jot down one thing you’re thankful for every day and put it in the jar. If you have a stressful or discouraging day, you can look back through your journal or jar to help you process your negative feels and recenter yourself on the positive.

7. Use Your Recruiter as a Resource

When you’re a travel nurse with CoreMedical, your recruiter stays in touch with you throughout the duration of your travel assignments. You can always lean on them when you’re overwhelmed. That’s what they are here for – to provide support and guidance. Plus, the CoreConnect app makes chatting with your recruiter in real time even easier!

Discover Our Ultimate Guide to Travel Nursing

Are you looking for more information on becoming a travel nurse or looking for new nursing opportunities? Find out everything you need to know and more in our Ultimate Guide to Travel Nursing.

Travel Nursing Guide


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