Survival Tips for Night Shift Nurses

Are you a new night shift nurse?

The transition to working night shifts can be challenging whether it’s your first time, or if it’s been a while since you’ve been to the ‘dark side.’ Despite the sleep schedule adjustment, many nurses find night shifts are a great way to further develop their skill set. The slowdown of incoming patients and fewer nurses on duty allow night shift nurses to be more autonomous. This combination also affords night shift nurses the ability to develop deeper relationships with their patients.

While experienced night shift nurses understand the transition to the late shift firsthand, new nurses can struggle in establishing a sense of work-life balance. Although this balance will look different for everyone, the compounding stress of not wanting to disrupt your personal life and mastering your new role can feel overwhelming. These tips are an excellent place to start in finding a balance that suits your needs.

Get a full eight hours of sleep—at least!

Any fellow night shift nurse will recommend investing in blackout curtains—they’re said to be a night nurse’s best friend. Once those are up, and sun exposure is minimized, try setting aside a dedicated 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Multiple sleep sessions of a few hours can disrupt circadian rhythm, where extended periods of rest will help form a healthy internal rhythm. Sticking to a sleep schedule can be hugely beneficial in adjusting to non-traditional work hours.

Those who have trouble adjusting to their new sleep schedule may consider a sleep supplement. Melatonin and Unisom are among the most popular for insomnia relief. Make sure to take any form of sleep aid two hours before your desired bedtime.

Nurses working three 12-hour shift every week can have a hard time managing their sleep schedule on days they are off work. It’s easy to fall back into a ‘normal’ sleep schedule on days off but can be confusing for the body when switching back and forth. Night shift nurses who can resist this temptation maintain a healthier sleep schedule.

Keep yourself busy

Most patients will be sleeping during the hours of a night shift. Set your team up for success when things get hectic by taking advantage of moments throughout the night that are calm. Additionally, night shift nurses can profoundly impact the day shift team with their organization. The potential influence on the day team can include detailed charting notes for a smoother transition and organized medicine supply rooms. Slower nights mean fewer distractions, lending itself to more explicit attention to patients in need.

Stay moving when possible to prevent fatigue and excessive napping, something that can further unsettle adapting to your new sleep schedule. Consistent movement will also help increase alertness and mindfulness on the job. If keeping yourself busy isn’t quite kicking your fatigue, grab a cup of coffee, or indulge in a small snack to keep your blood sugar up.

Making time for quality time

Many nurses find that night shifts allow for more quality time with their children, spouses, and friends. Although they’re are not on the same schedules as most, getting off work in the early morning means night shift nurses can have breakfast with their spouse or take their children to school. While it may be tempting to go straight to bed when getting home, try sticking to the time frame you choose for the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep.

Most importantly, make time for yourself. It’s no secret that in a field dedicated to caring for others, nurses often forget to care for themselves. Make sure to set aside time for unwinding, exercise, and hobbies. There is a tremendous amount of stress put on those in the medical field, so doing something for yourself each day can be the equivalent of pressing the reset button.

Mentally prepare yourself

Prepare yourself for the time of your life. Part of what makes taking on nights shift a no-brainer is the increase in pay. This is probably the most notable benefit, but the night shift team’s comradery, epic potlucks, freedom of management, and the escape from ‘normalcy’ remains unmatched.

If you’re new to late-night shifts, give yourself adequate time to adjust to the 180 flip of your new schedule. Remember to be patient as every nurse will adapt differently. There are exciting elements of all shifts and specialties, but there’s something unique about saving lives while the rest of the world sleeps. If you’re a night shift nurse, let MedPro know what else you love on our Facebook page!

Let us be your guide

MedPro is committed to providing quality nurses and allied professionals in each healthcare facility we staff throughout the country. Part of our caring for nurses includes The MedPro Experience, a personalized employee engagement program that embraces and celebrates you and your career. To learn more about this unique and exciting offering, contact us today at 1-800-866-8108, or apply here!

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