So you were offered your first nursing position, but you are concerned as a new nurse because you will be working the night shift. I’m here to tell you to relax! Starting on nights might actually be a positive experience for you. It will take a little time to adjust, but for many nurses, the benefits outweigh the challenges.
Advantages of Working Night Shift as a Nurse
Patients require care around the clock, and depending on your specialty, the level of care will vary greatly. As a new nurse, learning time management skills is essential to your success. Day shift tends to be very chaotic with many more team members around ordering tests and treatments. On nights, the pace tends to be slower with less personnel present. This allows you time to organize your thoughts and prioritize the care you provide with fewer interruptions. It will also aid you in thinking more independently since you will want to think through a situation and discuss it with your fellow nurses prior to waking the doctor at two in the morning. Reasoning through situations will enhance your confidence and prepare you for future complications and emergencies. With less staff present, there be more opportunities for you to perform and perfect your nursing assessments and skills.
For some nurses, working the night shift allows them more flexibility and time to be with their children. The cost of child care is very high and so some nurses are able to adjust their schedules with their spouse’s to avoid or decrease childcare costs. For example, some nurses will work more weekends so that they are home with their children during the week when their spouse is working. Working nights is also sometimes helpful while nurses are attending school, although then you must be able to switch back and forth easily.
Working the night shift as a nurse teaches you to work very well as a team. Nurses on night shift often form a close-knit group who depend on one another when a shift becomes very busy. Since you usually have a little more downtime while your patients are sleeping, you have the opportunity to get to know your fellow nurses and share stories. Potluck celebrations on night shift are usually amazing and a great bonding experience. During the quieter times, you can also learn from the more experienced nurses who are often excited to share their knowledge and experiences.
Most institutions offer a shift differential for working the night shift. This can add up to a considerable amount over the years and for many nurses, this becomes a major factor as to why they remain working the overnight shift.
Adjusting to Night Shift as a Nurse
You will need to learn to adjust you schedule, which can be tricky at times. Sleeping during the days is challenging for some, but consider installing dark shades or curtains and using ear plugs or a noise machine to drown out background noise. Try and set a routine schedule so that your sleep pattern can be as uniform as possible. Some nurses are able to easily switch back and forth, but you will have to see how you body responds and then factor that into your schedule if possible. For example, when I worked nights, I preferred to work 3 or 4 shifts in a row and then have a few days off versus others who preferred to work no more than 2 shifts in a row. Your eating schedule will also change, but again this is something that varies a lot from nurse to nurse. The important thing is to try and remain on a consistent and healthy diet. Always bring healthy snacks with you so you can avoid the cravings for junk food when you are tired.
Try and view working the night shift as a positive learning experience and be patient with yourself as you adjust. Who knows, you may love it. I worked nights for over ten years and only switched after becoming an advanced practice nurse, and believe me, adjusting to the chaos during day shifts took me a while.