What Are Some Tips for Surviving the Night Shift as a Nurse

Working a night shift as a nurse usually means a welcome shift differential pay but you have to find ways to survive the change in schedule. How can you get through the long hours when all your body wants is sleep? This article presents a few tips that could help you make the necessary adjustments to manage night shift. Day-timers fill their hours serving active patients and their families, working with doctors on their rounds, and answering to administrators and others. Nights are managed without all that activity. How do you adjust?

Work While Others Sleep

Night shifts may begin as early as five o’clock in the evening and end at five or six in the morning. During this time our bodies want to begin to relax and shut down for the day. Night workers have to adjust their sleep patterns and figure out how to interface their job schedules with their families and personal lives. In addition, as a night-shift worker, you probably work several days on and then are off for as many days. That means you have adjustment periods for both schedules.

Although humans seem to have an inherent drive to sleep at night and be active in the day, there are things you can do to get a good, restful day sleep, according to the Nurse Without Borders website. First, you should schedule your sleep time. Plan to be in bed and get up at regular times. Keep that schedule even on your days off, and enlist the help of your family in keeping it. Use room-darkening shades and sleep masks, if you must, but do not use sleep-inducing drugs. The pills and liquids just confuse body rhythms and keep you from making a healthy adjustment. Also, although the temptation is to collapse into bed as soon as you get home, don’t. Relax a little. Watch television, read or do other quiet activities before heading to bed and you will have a more relaxed and deep sleep.

Other Tips for Night Shift Survival

While you are at work, there are several things you can do to stay alert and productive. Monster.com’s Nursing Link recommends eating a full meal before work, and taking healthy snacks with you. Although the cafeteria may be available to you during the night shift, your choices are probably limited. Another tip is to wear a digital watch with a bright dial. As your body gets groggy, it is easy to forget medication times and other events, but the bright watch will keep the time right in front of you. Find ways to keep busy to keep the shift from “dragging.” During the day shift there is a lot going on but at night the halls are usually quiet and your patients are asleep. Keeping busy is a good way to make the hours pass. You can take advantage of slow times to walk the halls or climb a few steps for exercise. Night-shifters disappear during the day. If you want administrators to notice you so that you can advance in your career, you will have to break a few of these rules and make some appearances in the day, perhaps to volunteer to train new night nurses or help with scheduling.

The world of a night shift worker is different from the daytime nurse. While the goal of patient care is the same, your duties are unique. It may be difficult at first, but surviving night shift as a nurse is possible.

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