Many nurses will work the night shift at some point during their careers. It could be part of a plan to advance your career and gain more experience. For some nurses, working nights can be a way of life. For those nurses, nightshift nursing is a specialty.
It can take getting used to, but there are many benefits to working as a night shift nurse. Among these benefits are higher salary and an increased sense of camaraderie with your fellow nightshift workers.
Beyond the physical and mental adjustment to working when the rest of the world is still and quiet, the work reflects the difference between night and day. The night staff is rarely distracted by the administrative activity and personnel inhabiting the daytime hours. Without the rush and noise, nursing turns toward quiet, reflective care.
Not that chaotic environments are limited to the daylight, but the smaller staffing and moments of quiet that do occur provide night shift nurses opportunities to give more time to patients feeling alone in the night or employ an alternate approach to their work not afforded during the day.
Preparing for the Night Shift
There are morning people and night owls, but biologically humans are a diurnal species. This means that for most of us, it feels natural to be active during the day and rest at night. Like an athlete getting in top shape for the Olympics, shifting toward an active nighttime lifestyle requires preparation.
The first task is self-care. This seems obvious and not exclusive to night shift nursing, but it is particularly important when adjusting your body and mind to the other side of the clock. An article in The Nerdy Nurse offers the following advice for acclimating to the night shift:
- Slowly adjust your sleep schedule: By going to sleep and waking up two hours later than you currently do you will ease your circadian rhythm into a new normal.
- Nap: Consider taking a short nap before your shift begins.
- Eat healthy, eat light: A healthy, nutritious diet is always important. Especially so when you’re adjusting to or maintaining a nocturnal lifestyle. Don’t have a heavy meal before your shift. While it’s good to have a quick cat nap before punching the night clock, a big meal will make you that much more groggy and tired.
- Watch the caffeine. If you need coffee to get going, take it easy. Don’t drink too much and try to avoid caffeine during the second half of your shift.
- Stay active: There may be quiet moments during the night shift but try to remain active. If you have no pressing tasks, see if your colleagues could use some help. Find time outside of work for regular exercise.
- Routine is your friend: This rule applies for all sleepers – maintain a regular schedule of sleep and wake time. Don’t skimp on sleep. Generally speaking, 7 hours is the minimum requirement for most adults.
Night Shift Nurses: A Close-Knit Family
A special bond exists between night nurses. Writing for Nurse.org, Seattle-based RN Rachel Johnston says the camaraderie is the “hardest thing to give up about nights. There’s something about working nights that turns a regular group of nurses into a hard-working, fun-loving, unbreakable team that would do just about anything for one another.”
RN Sandra Crawley concurs. “The staff is kept to a minimum,” she says in an article in TravelNursing, “so there tends to be more camaraderie between staff members. This leads to a closer network of nurses, a greater opportunity to hone your nursing skills, and more opportunities to show leadership — all of which will help you advance in your career.”
Other Benefits of Night Shift Nursing
Some other advantages of working as a third shift nurse include an easier commute, fewer crowds when running errands, and better arrangement possibilities for childcare and other family responsibilities. You can also avoid the throng of day workers while going to the movies or enjoying other social events.
Working as a nurse during any shift is a rewarding career with many benefits. Working the night shift comes with its own perks and rewards.
If you’re planning on a short stint as a night shift nurse, these tips will help you prepare and manage your time. If you’re inclined to make night shift nursing your calling, this will launch your preparation to higher pay, closer work relationships, and providing the undisturbed care your patients need through the night.