So this is my personal opinion on nights...not necessarily the absolute answer.  Everyone is different in how their bodies react to being turned upside down from a sleeping perspective.

When I was in nursing school I was terrified of the prospect of working nights. How on earth are people able to stay up until 8:00 AM? Holy cow. I would see the night nurses when I started my shift at 7:00 AM and they all looked exhausted! Little did I know at the time that I would work nights for a very long time (five years and counting!). 


No sleep: Definitely a disadvantage. People have asked me how I switch my sleeping schedule. My personal preference when I was working full-time was to sleep a couple hours in the afternoon before my first shift and then sleep until 1:00 PM after my last shift. I'm pretty beat up waking up at 1:00 PM (think if you were waking up at 1:00 AM!), but it's what I've got to do to flip back to normalcy. Everyone is different though. Some people sleep for 4-5 hours before their first shift. Some are perpetual night owls and stay up until 1:00 AM or 2:00 AM each night when they aren't working (obviously they don't have kids that wake up at 7:30 AM :) ). Just try out different sleeping schedules to find out what works best for you. You'll still feel pretty exhausted (from my experience), but I suppose that's why you get the nighttime differential.

Not As Much Staff: So I listed this as a pro and a con. It is nice to be able to not have the ancillary staff around doing speech evals, dietary evals, PT, OT, etc. In the case of an emergency though, it is nice to have extra hands around. There was a situation where my patient needed to be emergently trached during the night one shift...let's just getting an additional critical care or emergency med doctor to assist our doctor was tricky at 4:00 AM. Luckily the procedure went well, but if it hadn't it would've been complicated by the fact that resources are slim at nighttime.


Family Friendly: Working nights has been amazing for my little family. I have a six-year-old stepson and a two-year-old daughter. I work one to two nights a week now (I've decreased my shifts as our family as grown) and don't need to get babysitters. If I work a Friday night, my husband picks up the slack that night and then watches the kids on Saturday. I know a lot of single mom RNs that drop their kids off at school, they go sleep, and then they pick them up and don't miss a beat. 

Nighttime Differential: Our hospital differential is $5 per hour on nights and then $3 per hour on weekends. Weekend night = $8 per hour. Enough said. It's like working a high school job in addition to your adult job. 

Family Are Sleeping & Extra Staff is At Home Sleeping Too: Ancillary staff is gone and you get to do your pure and simple nursing care. You're not worried about management sneaking up behind you (although I really like my managers) or PT needing your assistance with transferring patients. The patient's family is usually asleep which makes for a less stressful night. Just take care of your patient. 

Overall, I am grateful to be able to work nights. It is tricky with getting adequate sleep, but I feel like I have learned so much during nights that weren't as busy. I've had time to research and learn new pathophysiology and nursing interventions. Give it a try! You just might like it!

AuthorCourtney Tracy