As a teenage night owl, working a night shift always sounded like a lot of fun. I was used to staying up past my bedtime, so it seemed like a natural fit. Eventually, I grew up and experienced it. I worked the night shift as an OB RN for over ten years while raising a family simultaneously, and actually enjoyed it.
How could I enjoy a shift where my schedule conflicted with everyone else’s? Allow me to explain.
Perks of the Night Shift Nursing Life
- No One (but Me) to Put to Bed - As a working mother, I am exhausted after a 12-hour day. After a night shift, all I have to do is come home and go to bed. There are no kids to read stories to, or do homework with.
- Go to the Grocery Store - With most people at work during the day, the grocery stores are always empty. There are no lines to wait in, making trips especially efficient. The mall is the same way!
- Schedule Doctors Appointments - You never have to worry about fitting in an appointment with your doctor, because most people are working on a weekday when you’re just waking up or going to bed.
- Outstanding Teamwork - Throughout the various co-workers I have had, the night shift teams are by far the best. The teams usually consist of newer nurses, and you’re able to grow and learn together. Nurses on night shifts often become the best of friends, because of the long nights they frequently spend together.
- Patient Care - During the day, family members are visiting patients all day long. At night time, everyone leaves. This gives you time to focus on the patient’s needs better than daytime nurses can.
- Child Watch - Yes, one downside to the night shift is not seeing my spouse all the time. However, this means that he is always at home with our kids. This eliminates the need for us to take them to daycare, besides the infrequent times where school is on a break and I need to sleep.
- Shift Differential - Shift differential is a term used to refer to the bonus you receive for working the night shift. This can be a substantial reward, depending on the facility you work for.
- No Management - On the days that the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) are arriving, you’re clocking out. Management is at the hospital looking to talk to nurses, and you’re in bed.
Tips to Embrace the Night Shift Perks
- Family Support - Set ground rules now, or you will never sleep. My rule is that on weekends, my family can’t come near my room until 12 pm.
- Don’t Be a Superhero - Rest is an essential part of taking care of your body. Don’t try to skip sleep because the rest of the world isn’t sleeping. Remind yourself that they were sleeping when you were working.
- Work 12 Hours - This is a personal tip that’s worked for me. I know that most nursing jobs are 7p-7a, but you might occasionally find the 11p-7a jobs, 5 days a week. Working three 12-hour shifts gives you time to “recover” and transition to daytime mode.
- Hydrate - It’s very tempting to drink caffeine on night shift because you feel tired constantly, but your body may actually be craving water. Always remember to hydrate when you first wake up. Many caffeinated drinks can make you dehydrated and sluggish.
- Bring Food From Home - Text your night shift buddies and arrange pot-lucks. The cafeteria and many restaurants are closed during night shifts, so it’s helpful to bring crock-pots and organize a nutritious “Meal Monday” to fuel up.
- Phone Off - When you’re ready to rest, turn off your cell phone if you can. Otherwise, telemarketers and scammers may call and wake you up.
- Socialize - Although you may be tired after working, take advantage of your days off and spend time with people who work during the day. It’s important to make time for socializing with friends, or you may begin to feel isolated.
- Give It Time - After being a “day shift person” your whole life, a night shift will take some time to get used to. Listen to your body, and rest when you need to on your days off.
Working a night shift builds essential skills as a nurse. You learn how to manage effectively with limited staff and resources, and how to collaborate with your coworkers in a challenging environment. Use these tips to embrace the shift, and start getting accustomed to being a night owl.