3 Tips to Stay Mentally Alert During Long Shifts

by on August 12, 2009

in Dispatch Tips, EMS Education Tips, EMS Tips, Guest Blogger, Operations, Students

You work 12 hours (or even 24 hours) during a very busy ambulance shift and are ready to be home, go for a run, eat dinner and get to bed. However, on your way out the door your supervisor stops you. She tells you that someone has called in sick and wonders if you could possibly stay a few more hours or come back early the next morning. You are already exhausted. How do you stay alert and attentive during a long shift? Every Day EMS Tips contributor Martha Bonnie shares her tips for staying attentive during an extended or overnight shift.



1. Move. Walk in the ambulance bay, around your department, or in the office. Avoid sitting in front of a television or computer, while waiting for your next call.

2. Clean. Wash the inside and outside of vehicles used by your agency. Clean your locker, gear and bunkroom. Enlist the help of others to organize supplies.

3. Enjoy. Talk to your coworkers. Go for a walk, play a board game, or discuss professional topics. Be interested in their lives and spend time getting to know each other.

Sleep deprivation may be a routine part of your job. However, you can stave off that sleepy feeling by avoiding boredom. Keep moving, stay clean and enjoy your job!

Share your ideas for staying awake, alert, and enthusiastic in the comments area.

JEMS Digital Edition


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  • Dina Scharnhorst

    While all the suggestions are valid–and over the past 29 years of 24/48 or 24/72 rotations I’ve run into such situations and utilized each and every one of them–there is still nothing like a good, old-fashioned cat nap! There have been those moments when I’ve just hit the proverbial wall and nothing else will do to re-charge my internal batteries.

    • http://www.everydayemstips.com Greg Friese

      Thanks for the reminder of how useful a cat nap can be. What are you secrets for falling asleep? I always have a hard time falling asleep for a quick nap, but instead watch/listen enviously as my partner snores away.

  • emt.dan

    What do you suggest for crews that are running all night? How can we stay mentally alert after the 12th call? Or the 2oth hour?

    • http://www.everydayemstips.com Greg Friese

      Thanks for the question. I am going to put that to readers in a new blog post.

      I have such a difficult time staying awake and safe that I have chosen to rarely do shifts longer than 12 or 16 hours and I almost never work 24 hour shifts.

      I am looking forward to the suggestions from other readers.

  • Pingback: Need Your Tips for Staying Awake, Alert, and Safe on 24+ Hour Shifts

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