Night Shift Nursing

night shift nurse

I have worked nights for the last almost six years! When I originally started on nights, I was quite nervous and thought to myself, "I will only do this until I can switch to days." I quickly found that there are a lot of perks to working the night shift.  Don't get me wrong, the actual working at night and sleep routine is extremely difficult.  I felt like there were many perks to working at nights especially as a new nurse.

Opportunity for Learning

On my ICU nursing orientation I worked for two months on day shift and then one month on nights.  After orientation was done, I was given less critical ICU patients while I was figuring out my patient flow and developing my nursing skills.  During day shift, I was helping patients to eat, implementing new patient orders, performing procedures, and helping coordinate therapy.  For the most part, these are not a large part of the night shift (unless your patient decompensates or you get a new admit).

There were definitely still some crazy nights where I never sat down, but many nights I had time to reflect on my patients.  This allowed me the time really dive into my patient's charts.  I could look in depth at their labs, past medical history, and interventions we were performing to treat them.  I felt like I had the time to think and learn more without the rush of other tasks.  Many times there are day shift nurses that make the comment, "I've been so swamped today that I haven't even gotten a chance to look over the patient's history."  Although this happens on nights, it seems like the majority of the time I at least had time to look into the patient's chart. 

Establish A Routine

I was able to establish a great nursing routine while working nights.  The beginning of my shifts we were the time for me set up my entire night.  As a newer nurse I was not rushed through this critical time.  My initial routine consists of the following:

  • Receiving report on my two patients.
  • Assessing the more critical patient first, then moving onto the other patient.
  • Grabbing medications for more critical patient.
  • Look at chart if there are any questions regarding medication.
  • Give medications for the other patient.
  • Chart assessments.

The nights that were slower were the nights where I was really able to establish a great nursing routine.  This set up a pattern that I still use today as a bedside nurse.

Be With Your Kids

I have a seven year old and a three year old at home.  When I work three shifts in a row, I am still able to see my kids for about three hours each day.  I sleep until about 3:00 pm and then can see them until I leave around 6:30 pm.  If I were to work day shift, I would get up before my kids woke up and then get home as they are falling asleep. 

During the school year, it's nice for nurses with school-age children to be able to send their kids off to school and then sleep.  The kids don't even know that you are sleeping all day!  Definitely another pro for moms who are nurses. 

All in All

I know that there are a variety of differences between days and nights in the hospital.  Sometimes nights are way more chaotic than days, and you cannot predict how your nights are going to turn out.  There are definite perks and disadvantages to either shift.  It's important to recognize that we all work together to care for our patients.  

As a long-term night shifter, I'm glad that I've had the experiences I have working at night to be able to establish a great routine on my schedule.  For me, this seemed to be a big help!  Good luck to all nurses establishing their nursing practices!

AuthorCourtney Tracy