In a hospital, patient care is 24/7. That means when the sun has gone down and all the other nurses, doctors, techs, and support staff have gone home for the day, the night shift is just beginning.
Working the night shift as a nurse offers great opportunities if you’re willing to become a night owl, starting your day when most everyone else is ending theirs. But along with these opportunities comes a unique set of challenges.
Maybe you’re a new nurse looking to gain more experience or a seasoned day nurse wanting to change the pace or make some extra money. Maybe you’ve thought about the night shift, but are still weighing the pros and cons.
Well, we’ve gathered some tried-and-true nuggets from nurses across the nation about what it’s like working the night shift.
Here are the pros and cons of working a nursing night shift.
What are the advantages of working the night shift?
So why choose to flip your circadian rhythm and become a creature of the night? Well, there are actually quite a few great perks to working the night shift as a nurse.
The pay rates can be higher
One of the most attractive incentives for working the night shift is the higher pay. Many healthcare facilities offer added monetary bonuses for working the night shift.
You’ll have the opportunity to gain experience
For first-year and newer nurses, the night shift offers the opportunity to gain more experience by doing a wider variety of tasks. Since there are fewer people working, that means you’ll be doing more things and gaining valuable hand-on experience.
You’ll have more independence
With less staff working, that means less managers and less micromanaging your job. The night shift can give you more freedom and independence to work the way you want to without interference or interruptions. But this is a double-edged sword. With fewer people you’ve got fewer options for backup and support if an emergency happens.
The pace is slower (and calmer)
Less people, no visitors or family members, fewer orders, and less activity means the atmosphere of a night shift can be calmer and steadier, allowing you to focus on your job and provide better patient care.
You may have a little free time
Many night shift nurses will find extra time during their shift after they have cared for their patients. Use this extra time to continue your nursing education, study, gain certifications, or simply take a break and grab a bite to eat.
Patients typically have fewer care changes
In general, there are fewer scheduled changes to your patients’ care during the night, meaning all you need to do is help ensure they’re stable and getting the rest they need.
You’ll make great friends
If you know, you know. Nurses working the night shift have to work more closely together and rely on each other. So it’s no surprise that nurses who slog out the long hours of the night shift fueled by caffeine and sheer determination tend to form close friendships and share a tight camaraderie that’s not quite the same on the day shift.
- Less traffic on the commute
- Easier to do daytime errands when everyone else is at work
- Possibly earning more time off
Working the night shift sounds awesome and amazing, right? Well before you say goodbye to the sun and become a creature of the night shift, there are a few cons as well.
What are the cons of working the night shift?
While the perks of the night shift are great, the night shift also poses its own special challenges that can not only affect your social life, but also your physical and mental health.
Working the night shift can cause health issues
Nurses who worked the night shift have been shown to be more prone to health problems, especially gaining weight and obesity, cardiovascular disease, fatigue, and diabetes. Much of this can be linked to metabolic changes from irregular sleep schedules, a poor diet, insufficient exercise, or lack of sleep. Eyesight can also be affected from working in low light or under fluorescent lighting. Fatigue and burnout are also issues.
You’ll likely have less backup
If you like the calmer atmosphere because of fewer people around to bother you, well, that also means there are fewer people to help in an emergency. In some cases, you may have to do things yourself that someone else would normally do or call a doctor at home.
Getting enough sleep can be difficult
You will be sleeping (or trying to sleep) during the day when the sun is out and everyone else is being active, busy, . . . and loud. You may need to run errands or pick up kids from school. Getting good sleep can be a challenge.
Your social life will be impacted
Because you’ll be sleeping when the world is awake, you may find it impacts your social and family time. You may miss events, parties, happy hours, recitals, sports games, and more. You’ll also need to schedule time with friends and family, and if you have kids, split parenting duties.
So you’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly – still ready to join the night crew? For the right kind of nurse, the night shift doesn’t just offer a chance to gain experience, higher pay, or a change of pace. It is a way of life.
What are your thoughts on working the night shift? We’d love to hear from you. Send us an email or sign up for free and join our worldwide community of nurses at NurseHivePrep.com