Night Shift Nursing: Tips & Tricks to Survive

Intrigued by the idea of being a night shift nurse, but not sure if you could handle the late-night hours? Or maybe you’ve been assigned to work a night shift and you’re dreading the thought of it?
Working a night shift (or shift work) can be uniquely challenging - especially for your body to healthily adjust to the night schedule - but with the right amount of preparation, it can become a style of life that you actually really enjoy and even prefer.
To help address the questions around working a night shift, we spoke with one of our stellar nocturnal Nomad Nurses, Sybille!
Sybille is a traveling ICU RN, currently in south Georgia, who has worked the gambit of ICUs - including surgical, medical, neuro, trauma and cardio. She travels with her husband, an ICU nurse who works day shifts. They have been nurses for 5 years, but have been traveling for a little over a year.

Why did you decide to start working night shifts?

I started out working a rotating schedule out of school. My facility did a month on days and then a month on nights. It wasn’t too bad. I just didn’t like the pace of day shift. For me, there is too much talking and too many people asking the same questions over and over.
Night shift has a very different vibe. It seems less hectic and I think I have more time to read about the patient and really get a full picture of what is going on with them.
I also enjoy doing things when they aren’t busy. Like grocery shopping is easier during the day. Going to the gym before the work rush gets there. Things like that.

What are some of your tips and tricks on surviving the night shift?

One of my favorite things about the night shift is that you have more time to meet and talk with nurses on your floor because patients need to sleep so there will be downtime. I rarely ever stay late charting because I have time to get it done on shift.
That being said there are definitely a few things I make sure to do to survive the night shift. Here are my top tips:
  • Bring lots of healthy food and eat all night long. I get made fun of for constantly eating. But I don’t really eat at home. Most of my calories are consumed at work. I’ll bring 2-3 meals (usually a dinner and then some type of breakfast dish with eggs) and then fruit, vegetables and nuts to snack on.
  • Drink lots of water because this will help with headaches. Nurses in general are bad at staying hydrated. Then I usually do coffee at the beginning of my shift and around 2 am. No later than 4 am for me or I won’t be able to sleep.
  • When you get tired, do light exercise to wake yourself up. I like to do stairs in the facility as my form of exercise. It definitely gets my blood flowing and helps me push through the rest of the shift.
  • Having a routine works best for being on night shift. Getting your body used to sleeping during the day and staying awake at night is key to making sure that you feel “normal” when you’re working.

How do you maintain work-life balance and relationships with friends and family?

When I am not on a work stretch I switch back to a day shift sleep schedule.
My husband works day shift so his is easiest for us. When I get off my last shift for the week I will sleep until noon and then go about my day and go to be like a “normal” person.
For us opposite shifts has worked best to raise our dogs. It would be nearly impossible as a nurse working 12 hour shifts to have a puppy otherwise.
We have to be intentional about making time for each other on our off days. It’s also very important to work most of the same days. Otherwise you really won’t see each other.
Working the night shift can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a scary one. By following Sybille’s great tips, you may learn that you actually enjoy being a night shift nurse even more than being a day-shift nurse!
If you’re feeling inspired to take a night shift assignment, you can start your search here.
Good luck, and have a great night! 🌃
The Nomad Team
Last Updated
May 29, 2018

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Looking for adventure on the road as a travel nurse? Follow the journey of two friends who take on new travel assignments together! Discover the ups and downs of traveling with a companion, and learn how these nurses navigate new destinations and new job challenges.

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