Let’s Talk About...Pre-shift Anxiety for Newly Qualified Nurses


Nurses - 7 months ago

Becoming a registered nurse is an exciting milestone, but there’s a notable shift in pressure with nurses finding themselves out on their own for the first time. While training to be a nurse involves gaining hands-on experience, the emphasis shifts from studying and exams to being responsible for real patients in your care. And it’s this transition that can sometimes result in anxiety.

While pre-shift anxiety is extremely common, there are some tried and tested techniques to help you stay relaxed and prevent negative feelings from impacting on your overall mental health and the care you provide for patients. 

Look out for the signs

To recognise that you might be struggling with anxiety, you need to be honest with yourself. Are you having difficulty sleeping? Do you find yourself trembling or short of breath when you’re at work? Once you identify feelings of anxiety, you’ll be well-placed to start putting a routine in place before work that will help to calm your nerves and equip you with the emotional tools to tackle the day.

Address your lifestyle

Small alterations to your lifestyle can go a long way in helping you to reduce your anxiety on shift. Whether that’s introducing a regular exercise routine, going to bed an hour earlier each night, or practising yoga and meditation techniques - all of which have been found to help ease work-related anxiety.

Cut out the stimulants

Stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and sugar can work to fuel anxiety levels. While it’s easier said than done to cut out the coffee, especially if you’re working night shifts, it’s worth seeking alternatives to see whether it makes a difference to your mood. Healthy smoothies or herbal teas contain calming and anti-inflammatory properties that won’t spike your adrenal levels.

Breathing exercises

Slowing down your breathing can help to restore a calm state of mind. This, in turn, reduces your heart rate, helping to prepare, handle and recover from stressful experiences far more effectively.

Plan your break

Make the most of your breaks, whether that’s reading a book, listening to a podcast or getting some fresh air by taking a short walk outside. You may find that taking your mind off work can give you a renewed focus when you return to your shift. If it’s possible, you could benefit from walking to and from work or at least part of the way to clear your head.


Don’t suffer in silence. The chances are that most of your colleagues, especially senior nurses, will have experienced anxiety at some point and may be able to offer tips and advice. Just having someone to talk can help you gain perspective and prevent any problems from escalating.

Post-shift care

After a long shift, your adrenaline might be pumping, emotions flying and stress levels higher than average. While detaching yourself from the day through exercise or deep breathing can help to clear your mind, it’s important not to try and forget about it entirely as this can sometimes increase your anxiety before your next shift. Instead, try talking through your day with a colleague or friend who can offer an objective outlook. Also, the internet is a great place to share your thoughts and seek advice, with forums on the Royal College of Nursing website providing the opportunity to discuss your experiences with your peers.

If you’re looking for your next exciting role in nursing, search our latest opportunities or contact the MCM Medical team today who are on-hand to help.