Nursing Tips: Surviving the Night Shift

Nursing Tips: Surviving the Night Shift

Working through the night isn’t something for the faint of heart. Add in the pressure of delivering care that could potentially mean the difference between life and death, and you’ve got quite a stressful situation. Whether you’re new to the nursing field, were recently assigned to a nighttime role or you’ve been burning the midnight oil for decades, the following tips should help you navigate the evening shift like a boss.

Make sleep a priority.

Anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of clocking in at 11pm has already heard a million times over how important it is to get enough sleep before a shift. But it’s so important that we have to mention it again. Sleeping during the day can be challenging – especially for those who work swing shifts or have multiple days off in a row – but it’s critical to both your own success as well as optimum patient care. So, schedule it and do what it takes to stick to it.

Bring healthy snacks and plenty of water.

If the facility where you work supplies healthy snacks, chances are the day-shift folks will have already eaten most of them by the time you arrive, so don’t get caught unprepared. Bring your own healthy on-the-go snacks, like a piece of fruit, a cheese stick or a protein bar. And remember to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. Fuel your body well and it will reward you with greater alertness and stamina.

Resist the urge to over-caffeinate.

It can be tempting to jumpstart your body and mind with several cups of coffee, sodas or energy drinks, but remember that caffeine can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythm. So, while you may enjoy an initial jolt of energy, you’ll inevitably also experience a crash. If you must drink caffeinated beverages, limit yourself to one or two cups, and avoid drinking these during the second half of your shift. Otherwise, you may have difficult falling asleep and getting adequate rest once you get home.

Bond with your co-workers.

The world around you may be sleeping, but you’re surrounded by a team of other like-minded individuals who are in the same boat as you. Establishing friendships with those with whom you work can help make managing the nightshift a lot more enjoyable. If nothing else, you’ll have other folks to commiserate with.

Stay busy.

Keeping yourself busy is important in surviving the night shift. Some night’s you’ll find that you’re so busy you barely have time to take a breath, others you’ll feel as though the hours are dragging by. If you’re in a slump, try to get some extra work done, or start some prep work for the nurses who are coming in after you. Spend some time chatting with coworkers or visiting patients that are awake.

Working the night shift can be challenging, even for nurses who have been doing so for years. It can be helpful to have some tricks up your sleeve – such as the ones listed above – which can help you stay alert and more effective at your job, and also make managing this schedule a bit more tolerable.