Working a Night Shift in Nursing: Pros & Cons
Working a night shift in nursing can be challenging, but with the right strategies and mindset, it can also be a rewarding experience that allows you to provide critical care to patients when they need it most
The demand for night shift nurses will never decrease because healthcare is available around-the-clock. And a lot of nurses consider the evening shift to be a desirable and reliable alternative. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 4% of Americans who worked in 2017–18 did so on a night shift. Several of these employees are medical professionals, including nurses working the night shift.
What then qualifies as a night shift? While a shift’s duration and times may differ depending on the employer, most night shifts last between eight and twelve hours and are scheduled between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. The unpredictability of nursing, however, can occasionally result in changes to the schedules and lengths of scheduled shifts. Furthermore, some nurses want to alternate between night and day shifts.
Be sure to comprehend the opportunities and challenges involved with working the night shift before accepting a job offer if you’re thinking about advancing your nursing career by doing so. Although the transition needs some additional planning, nurses who are successful in the differentiated role have exceptional opportunities for leadership and are better equipped for development.
A night shift nurse is what?
The labor that needs to be done is 24/7, much like in many other health care professions. A professional nurse who works the night shift is in charge of caring for patients after work. These are not typically the 9 AM to 5 PM day shift hours, or even the 7 AM to 3 PM days, that you would work. Although while night shift nurses are busy caring for patients, they must also do administrative duties. They must record any medical data pertaining to the treatment of their patients, their current condition, and the events of the shift. Nearly all medical settings, including hospitals, long-term care institutions, doctor’s offices via telehealth, and some outpatient clinics, employ night shift nurses.
Benefits of Nursing Careers on the Night Shift
There are various advantages to working the night shift as a nurse, according to the Journal of Nursing Education and Practice (JNEP). Spending time with family is one of them. Also, when daily duties aren’t completed during the same hours as the majority of society, they can be more easily managed. For instance, for busy professionals, there are significant advantages to less traffic and shorter delays when shopping and running errands.
There are numerous benefits for nurses who work the night shift. In Scrubs Magazine, RN Tricia Hunter talked about how happy she was to have more time to care for patients. She said in 2019 that there was more time to focus on the patient’s needs because extended family members often slept at home during the night shift. Hunter also noted that because fewer people are working at that time, she develops stronger working ties with her coworkers during the night shift.
Working the night shift might make you more distinctive professionally and also help you form tight bonds with coworkers. Working the night shift gives you more freedom and gives you more chances to show off your time-management and leadership skills. This can lead to opportunities and growth that might be harder to find when you work the day shift.
Furthermore, the 12-hour workday model frequently includes nurses who work the night shift. This results in a number of professional and health benefits. According to a piece on RegisteredNursing.org, the following:
- Consistency in care results in better patient outcomes and healing
- less communication blunders
- less health care professionals are burned out
- an improved work-life balance
The night shift has several advantageous professional and societal effects. Still, it’s important to know that it can bring about changes for which you need to be ready.
The Problems with Working the Night Shift
Although while the night shift has many advantages, there are some disadvantages as well. Not everyone will enjoy it.
Working late at night interferes with the body’s circadian cycles. As a result, some night shift nurses struggle to get regular, ample, and fulfilling sleep. The body frequently finds it difficult to fall asleep during hours when the sun is out, even when there is ample opportunity to sleep during the day. Moreover, daytime commitments like child care or appointments can prevent night shift nurses from getting enough rest during their free time. Family members’ proper support is crucial.
When working the night shift, you may experience negative side effects, many of which might make your job as a nurse more challenging. The Sleep Foundation states that insufficient sleep can result in:
- sluggish thinking: Quick thinking might make the difference between life and death in some healthcare settings, while slow thinking can hinder your ability to perform your work effectively.
- shorter span of focus: Simple chores might become more difficult to perform when one is unable to concentrate, adding to the stress of working a shift.
- irritability, tension, and fear. These mood swings might cause long-term medical and emotional problems if they are not addressed.
- deteriorated memory: Patient safety and career success may be at risk due to memory loss.
- Making poor decisions: A crucial nursing ability is quick decision-making. It’s crucial to maintain your capacity for speedy information synthesis in order to make a call that could save a life.
- Prolonged sleep deprivation: can cause a variety of problems, including hormone imbalances, mental health concerns, and cardiovascular disease. Insomnia, an elevated risk of risky driving owing to sleepiness, and a strain on familial connections are among claimed drawbacks of working night shifts.
Despite its difficulties, the night shift is preferred by many nurses because it allows them to keep flexibility in their personal lives while having a beneficial impact on the wellbeing of their patients. In the end, a lot of nurses find that working the night shift is rewarding.
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Nursing Advice for the Night Shift
To thrive when working the night shift, it’s essential to have the support network and self-care skills necessary. To stay in top shape when working the night shift, remember these advice:
- Establish a schedule, follow it, and include activities that promote sound sleep patterns.
- To guarantee that you obtain the best possible sleep, find techniques to reduce stress.
- Workout frequently. Going for a short walk can help you fall asleep and relieve stress.
- Keep pursuing social interaction and joyful activities.
- Take advantage of the advantages of working the night shift by keeping a cheerful perspective.
- Plan and guarantee sound sleep if you want to succeed as a night shift nursing
Night shift nurses to maintain a healthy sleep
The CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health give these recommendations for night shift nurses to maintain a healthy sleep schedule:
- After work, go straight to bed. Prior to the natural circadian alerting system kicking in to keep you awake, there is a brief window of opportunity.
- As much as you can, sleep. You are more likely to get enough restful sleep if you sleep in longer blocks, since the quality of sleep during the day may be different from that during the night.
- Keep the sun from disturbing your sleep. Your body awakens in response to daylight.
- Get assistance from friends and family. Family members should be urged not to interfere with your sleep before or after a night shift.
While working the night shift, using the appropriate equipment might assist you in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Consider:
- bedroom curtains with blackout lining
- An eye mask before bed to better shield against light and other distractions
- headphones that block out noise
- Little doses of melatonin can help your body adapt to a new sleep schedule.
- a suitable travel mug for coffee or tea that will keep you awake all night
- Containers for meal planning to support a balanced diet
- a reusable bottle of water to keep you hydrated
- a thorough planner to ensure that sleep and wellness are given priority in your agenda
It can occasionally be challenging to work schedules that conflict with the majority of the world’s activity and your normal sleep cycles. Following these night shift nurse requirements and being proactive about your emotional and physical health can help you put your best foot forward, develop a rewarding career, and make a difference in the lives of others.
Choose a Nursing Program that Suits You
The correct education is the first step in preparing for night shift nursing. You can excel as a night shift nurse by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which will give you the knowledge of the industry and leadership abilities you need.
With the help of Methodist University’s online RN to BSN program, you can gain the knowledge you need to handle the challenges and benefits of working the night shift. Working nurses can achieve a BSN with the flexibility they need through our RN program, which is CCNE certified.
No matter what shift you work, a BSN from Methodist University can give you abilities to advance in your career. Also, you’ll graduate prepared to take on leadership roles. With the help of knowledgeable teachers and a committed online adviser, you may combine your obligations to work, family, and school while enrolled in our program. Other health-related degrees may be of interest. Browse all of Methodist University’s online health care programs.
Being a night shift nurse is definitely not for the weak of heart. What are the benefits and drawbacks of working the night shift as a nurse? Although while working the night shift can be difficult, there are certain advantages. The top 10 benefits and drawbacks of working the night shift as a hospital nurse, which we covered in this article, should help you determine whether or not this career path is right for you, whether you’re thinking about pursuing it or you’re just curious about the potential difficulties people may encounter.