The life of night shift nurses is different from day shift nurses. The transition to the night shift schedule is a major adjustment both on work and personal lifestyle aspects. To help you cope with these changes, here’s a complete guide in what to expect and how to survive night shift duty.
Are you ready to be a night owl?
The Night Shift in a Nutshell
The night shift duty is completely different from day shift duty. It can be quiet and peaceful but you should always expect the unexpected. There can be a quick turn of events as emergency cases usually happen at night.
Otherwise, you will have plenty of time during night shifts. Maximize this free time to hone your knowledge, skills and connections with your co-nurses. Do your best with patient care so day shift nurses will receive your endorsements complete and trouble-free.
Advantages of Night Shift Duty
During night shifts, you will appreciate the following:
• Closer camaraderie – Night shifters usually have a closer sense of camaraderie. There will be nights where you will enjoy funny chats with your co-nurses. Take this time to build strong bonds and connections with your colleagues.
• More peaceful – There will be fewer interruptions in patient care during night shift duties. No administrative personnel and visitors will interrupt the nursing care you are providing to your patients. Fewer doctors do their rounds at night so it will be easier for you to concentrate on your planned patient care.
• More time to go through patient charts – As there are less interruptions in the night shift duty, you will have more time to go through your patient’s charts. Take this chance to improve your clinical knowledge and skills. Read patients’ history, laboratory results and progress notes.
Disadvantages of Night Shift Duty
Being in night shift has its own share of disadvantages too.
• Disturbed sleeping patterns – Working in the night shift means sleeping when the sun is out. This could be a major problem if you are not used to sleeping during daytime or live in a noisy neighborhood.
• Crazy or crazy sick patients – Be careful when it’s full moon is an old saying popular among night owls and nurses. Crazy and trainwreck patients commonly appear at night especially the ER’s “frequent flyers”.
• Less social life – Working during the night means you’ll be sleeping while everyone else is going about their day. When family and friends plan to go out, you might just want to sleep and stay at home.
• Fear of the sun – Okay that’s an exaggeration but stay long enough in night shift and sooner or later, you’ll start to dislike a hot blazing sun as the pain from the light and heat feels double than usual. It WILL sometimes feel like you’ve turned vampire.
Also Read: Top 20 Funniest #Nursingproblems
Tips in Surviving Night Shift for Nurses
If you will move to night shift duties, here are some tips on how to survive it:
1. Upon the start of your shift, you’ll have to anticipate what you need for the night.
If previous progress notes indicate history of fever or pain, check the patient’s PRN medications if they cover these problems. Call your doctors promptly to ask for PRN medication to be ordered and do routine requests or assessments early.
2. Check your patient’s diagnostic exams scheduled the next morning before concerned departments close for the night.
Double-check if the procedure is lined up on the schedule next day. Clarify if there are any additional preparations needed for the procedure.
3. Listen to seasoned night owls.
Working night shifts gives you the chance to work and talk with well-experienced nurses. They have great skills and knowledge to share as they became ingenious and resourceful in surviving night shift duties for decades.
1. Pack your meals at work.
Since your body needs to get used to working night shifts at first, what you eat will have a major effect on your energy levels. Most fast food choices that are open 24 hours are unhealthy food choices that’s why it’s important to bring a packed meal. (Or you can contract one of those services that provide healthy meals on the go.)
2. Do your best to not skip meals.
It’s hard at first but if you set a schedule, you can condition your mind to eat at proper times. Try sticking to 4 meals per day – dinner with your family, light meal at work, breakfast when you go home and lunch when you wake up.
3. Stay hydrated.
Drink ten to twelve glasses of water per day. Night shift nurses frequently forget to keep themselves hydrated as they drink too much coffee and tea. Keep your caffeine intake moderate as it can affect your sleeping pattern.
Also Read: 12 Vitamin D Recipes for Night Shift Nurses
1. Use blackout curtains
Our body is conditioned to have a sound sleep when the surroundings are dark. Using blackout curtains on your room can help you have quality sleep as the rays of sunlight are blocked from entering your room. Just make sure you have sufficient ventilation.
2. Use an old-fashioned box fan to mask outdoor noises
White noise coming from fans can be hypnotic and help you in falling asleep. It also masks outdoor noises like your neighbor’s mower, kids’ laughter and dogs’ barks.
3. Condition yourself and your room before going to sleep
Avoid drinking coffee or alcohol two to three hours before your sleep. If you are having trouble falling asleep, condition your room’s environment to make it conducive for sleeping. Thermoregulate your room’s AC and use aromatherapy. You can also use sleep masks, earplugs and sleeping aids like melatonin and diphenhydramine.
1. Tell your friends and family that you are working night shifts.
This will let them know that you should not be called or disturbed during daytime as you sleep.
2. Put a “Day Sleeper” sign in your front door for deliveries and UPS.
The mailman will understand day sleeper signs as working night owls.
3. Plan your social events with families and friends.
You need to plan ahead so you can fix your schedule. There will be times where you will need to squeeze your social events and work in a day. During these times, it’s hard to catch up sleep and be conditioned at work.
1. If you feel sleepy while driving home, pull over immediately.
Take a quick nap to recharge your senses. It’s better to come home a bit later than usual than suffer an accident.
2. Open your car window and listen to lively radio stations while driving even if you do not feel sleepy.
This will keep you attentive so you will stay awake especially if you need to drive for long hours.
3. If you frequently feel sleepy as you travel way back home, try talking to someone over your mobile phone.
If you are commuting and keep falling asleep on the way home, ask a friend or family member to talk you through the commute home everyday. This will help keep you awake until you get to the safety of your home.
If you have more questions about working the night shift schedule for the first time, ask your older colleagues about it. Night shift nurses have a lot of tips to share for their younger colleagues. Take note of their advices and don’t hesitate to ask questions so you can be prepared for your first night shift duty.