top of page

10 Tips for Nurses on Night Shift

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ theme_builder_area=”post_content” _builder_version=”4.17.4″ _module_preset=”default”][et_pb_row _builder_version=”4.17.4″ _module_preset=”default” theme_builder_area=”post_content”][et_pb_column _builder_version=”4.17.4″ _module_preset=”default” type=”4_4″ theme_builder_area=”post_content”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.17.4″ _module_preset=”default” theme_builder_area=”post_content” hover_enabled=”0″ sticky_enabled=”0″]

If you are scheduled to work the night shift as a nurse, you better start saving up on that sleep and prepare for long nights that will shift between being arduously boring and tremendously busy, seemingly at random. Unlike the day shift at hospitals and medical clinics, the night shift often sees a less constant flow of traffic, although things can get very complicated and hectic should an emergency occur overnight. Below, read 10 tips that may be helpful as you prepare for the night shift routine, so you don’t feel instantly overwhelmed, whether you’re rotating from the day shift or starting a new position altogether.

  1. Avoid coffee (for the most part)

One of the worst ways to set yourself up for an energy crash later in your shift is to rely too much on cups of coffee to keep you awake and alert. Drinking a lot of coffee at the beginning of your shift may help you feel energized at the start of your shift, but you’ll find yourself out of energy just a few hours later, and eventually you won’t be able to keep awake and alert no matter how much coffee you drink. If you need coffee, try a single cup later in your shift when you can no longer do without it, for a last-minute boost of alertness. That way, you won’t feel the coffee crash until at least your shift is over.

  1. Be prepared for the unexpected

When you regularly work the day shift, you can expect a steady stream of patients, or at least know the ebbs and flows of typical clinic or hospital traffic during the day. At night, it is often more difficult to follow a routine, especially since there can be long stretches where nothing happens, only to be interrupted by a serious emergency out of nowhere. By always being prepared for an unexpected event, you won’t have to prepare as hard if you suddenly need help during an emergency at 3:30 in the morning.

  1. Know your allies

Night shift teams in hospitals are often known for being close-knit, probably in response to the lack of urgent events every couple of minutes, allowing nurses, doctors and other staff members to get to know each other better. Night shifts can be difficult to endure, especially if you’re a day person, so knowing who you can rely on during those long breaks can be a big advantage for you in the long run.

  1. Apply for the day shift when available

Some nurses who only work the night shift complain that their career momentum has stalled, particularly those who were moving up quickly when they worked the day shift. This has less to do with the job performance of those who work the night shift and more to do with the great advantage of working during the day, which is the networking aspect. Most senior people in the hospital or clinic will be working only during the day for the most part, which means they will be interacting primarily with the day shift nurses on a routine basis. If you are struggling for attention and only work night hours at this time, you may want to consider adding some day shift hours as well, if available, to increase your visibility to those who can help you advance your career.

  1. Use bright colors

When there is no natural sunlight to keep you cheerful and alert, and you only have dull colored nursing uniforms to look at otherwise, you may feel like you are living in a quiet environment, which can be depressing. By wearing bright and cheerful colored nursing uniforms, you can not only improve your mood, but also the mood of your patients, who not only have to endure a medical incident, but also stay awake at whatever remote hour it is.

  1. Eat well (and bring a snack)

You’ll want to make sure you eat a full meal before you start your shift. If you sleep until the start of your night shift, try to eat what would amount to a typical breakfast before you start work to help you start the day on the right note. If instead you sleep immediately after your shift, try eating something more like a late lunch or dinner. That way, you’ll help normalize your night shift routine and also keep those hunger pangs at bay. If you can only eat a small amount before work because you’re not used to eating at unusual times yet, be sure to bring a snack with you. You may not be hungry right before work, but you may need a pick-me-up during your shift to keep your focus where it needs to be.

  1. Take your time

During the day shift, you may have had to wait in traffic for an hour or so to get to work. The night shift has no such traffic qualms, so don’t rush off to the hospital or clinic hours before you need to be there. The more you treat your night shift like a day shift, the more normalized your routine will become and the more skillfully you can maximize your time off.

  1. Have a backup

If you’re the type of person who tends to accidentally fall asleep during the evening hours when things get slow, you may need a backup to keep you on track and on schedule. Set your cell phone to ring every fifteen minutes if that helps make sure you wake up in case you accidentally fall asleep on the toilet during a bathroom break.

  1. Be honest with yourself and others

Not everyone is cut out to work the night shift, and if working long hours overnight is starting to impede your ability to perform effectively, you need to be honest with yourself and your supervisor. For the sake of your own well-being, as well as the well-being of incoming patients, you need to know when you can’t handle something.

  1. Adjusting to pace

It can be difficult to prescribe help in situations that you are currently unaware of. Sometimes, there are quirky regulars coming into the hospital at night with similar conditions, and other times there may be an annoying neighbor who makes a point to come in and complain to your clinic staff after hours. There is a lot of the unexpected to expect on the night shift, so expect it in the meantime, and make adjustments to your routine and approach as you go along. Eventually, you will adjust well, and be ready and waiting for any problems that come your way during the early hours of hospital or clinic hours.


2 views0 comments


bottom of page