Night Shift Guide

Night shift schedule is a tough one! Some people love it, others hate it, while I’m still trying to figure it out… On my unit we rotate day & night shifts, I used to think night shift was completely impossible but I’ve enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Some weeks are easier than others but so far this is what I’ve figured out works best for me:

Night Shift Necessities

  • Dark room- daytime sleeping can be bright! use black out curtains/shades
  • Eye mask- most of the time I just fall asleep, but sometimes the extra help of the eye mask works well
  • Ear plugs- necessary if I’m trying to sleep when others are home
  • Melatonin supplements- so far I haven’t needed these, but I’ve kept them just in case I have a rough day in between shifts… usually I’m good with falling asleep quickly, so thankful

Night Shift Preparation

  • Day before the night shift: I sleep in this day and carry on normal schedule, my last day of “normalcy” for a bit…
  • Night before the night shift: I stay up for as late as possible this night, this is fun! I’ll watch TV, blog, hang out… then go to sleep around 3-4am, as late as I can make it
  • The day of the night shift: I typically sleep until around noon, then I’ll get up watch TV, eat, run errands… then it’s back to sleep 3-5pm, my goal is to add exercise in here, but I don’t always feel up for it when I feel groggy
  • Getting ready for work: After I wake up & get dressed it’s time to head into work at 6pm

Night Shift Routine

Most people wonder what you do all night as a nurse? & believe it or not people are 100% awake and working all night at the hospital! It is usually a little quieter because only essential staff is there and it’s not as crowded with many different visitors in/out… you hope your patients feel like sleeping, but that’s not always the case. We continue to monitor and assess all night and get really good at sneaking around as quickly & quietly as possible. But patients at the hospital don’t always get as much sleep as you think- there are medications to administer, lab draws, walks and important assessments which are high priority even in the early morning hours. A tentative outline of the night shift is as follows:

  • 18:30- arrive to work and get my patient assignment, look up my patients information
  • 19:00- clock in & begin the shift, get report, check EKG strips
  • 19:40-21:00- 1st round of full patient assessments are complete
  • 21:00-23:00- time for charting, answering call bells, assisting other nurses
  • 23:00-01:00- 2nd round of focused patient assessment are complete, after midnight daily bandages & dressings are changed
  • On a good night lunch is around 02:00-02:30ish
  • 03:30-05:00- 3rd round of focused patient assessments are complete, assist the lab, tend to monitors and patient needs…
  • 06:00- final medication pass, patient walks begin, charting is completed
  • 07:00-07:45- Day shift returns and it is time to update & give report on the patient and any changes throughout the night
  • 08:30- get home, SHOWER, see Dillon off to work & crash… sometimes I’m hungry enough to eat, but not usually… then repeat

I usually will work night shifts x3 in a row to keep my sleep schedule consistent… I don’t like breaking them up and having days off wasted…

On the day, coming off of my last night shift- my goal is to sleep until noon and the wake up for the entire day, carry on, get back to “normal” and then crash fall asleep around 10pm with the goal of normal sleep the next day

^^My 3am face

Night Shift Pros

  • Less chaos typically! There are no rounds taking place all night, you’re patients aren’t being pulled to procedures/PT/OT/Speech/Xray, they’re typically in their room most of the night, so less sign outs & transport
  • You have more time to think and change dressings and overall visit with your patients, less interruptions
  • $hift differential = higher pay
  • Better parking options are offered for night shift staff!

Night Shift Cons

  • Adjusting to the weird schedule while the rest of the world carries on, having to sleep through something fun is the worst!
  • After a few weeks of nights I get super moody & discombobulated
  • Night shift life feels super lonely- I miss coming home to Dillon & getting to eat dinner and catch up before bed and I don’t always like sitting up late with just myself
  • My exercise schedule & diet always seem to get super thrown off, I never seem to eat or exercise enough it never feels like the right time to do anything!
  • Lately it takes me 2-3 days to get “back on schedule” and then it’s time to turn around and go back to nights again!
  • It also doesn’t help when people think you’re lazy because you have different schedules “all you do is sleep all day” is not the right thing to say to a recovering night shifter!

So, as you can see… there’s lots of feelings surrounding night shift!
Overall, don’t be afraid & go for it! Everything is worth a try & you’ll be amazed of what you are capable of.
Always be safe + do what is best for you, this is very important for yourself, patients & family!

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