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Is Night Shift for You?

Night Owl
NATALIA PEREVOZCHIKOVA/123RF.com

You’re a night owl. You like watching the Late, Late Show and you’ve been known to hit the sack just as sunlight streaks across the horizon. If that describes you, you might be a good fit for night shift. Even if it doesn’t, you might want to consider night shift as the place to hone your nursing skills.

There are a number of advantages to working while the rest of the world sleeps. Consider these:

  • Night shift tends to be an overall calmer shift. Your patients may or may not sleep. But even if they don’t, you have far fewer distractions from physicians, physical therapists, the phone, and even family members. You might actually get to spend time interacting with your patients.
  • Night shift is a cash cow – up to $5 an hour more in some areas.  It may not seem like much, but that money adds up to several thousand dollars a year!
  • Night shift staff can be a skeleton crew, with at least a third less staff than day shift, and you quickly learn to depend on one another. A strong sense of teamwork is common among night shift teams.
  • If your children are in school, you can often attend field trips, conferences, and other special events. Plus, you can sleep during the school day and be available when they get home from school. You might even be able to have sit-down meals together before you have to shift gears into work mode.

Then again, there’s no such thing as the perfect gig. Night shift has its drawbacks. The biggest? It’s really hard on you physically.

  • Research shows that you are going to get less sleep. Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center found that in a two week period, as many as 25 percent of hospital nurses go without sleep for up to 24 hours in order to adjust to working on the night shift. (Link: http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2011/04/nurse-sleep-circadian-clocks/)
  • That lack of sleep can cause big problems. Sleep deprivation isn’t good for you. Tina Waters, a sleep specialist with the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, states that chronic sleep deprivation “can cause irritability, excessive daytime sleepiness, and ultimately, can increase one’s chances of cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks, high blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia.” (link: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2014/02/11/healthy-tips-for-night-shift-workers)
  • That sleep deprivation isn’t good for your patients, either.  Sleep deprived nurses make more errors. You’ll have to work hard to stay on top of your game. (Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24316614)
  • That skeleton crew I mentioned? That means you might not get a break, and you will have to do more hands-on care, due to fewer support staff to help you.

5 Night Shift Survival Tips

Somebody has to work night shift. If it’s you, keep these tips in mind:

  1. If you drink coffee to keep you awake, stop three hours before you plan to sleep.
  2. Download a sleep app for your phone, or use Fitbit to measure the quality of your sleep
  3. Get your family onboard to help protect your daytime sleep – they can adjust playdates, electronic devices, and other noises around your sleep schedule
  4. Turn off your cell phone when you sleep so you won’t be distracted by calls or texts
  5. Power naps are truly powerful! A 20-30 minute nap during your shift can be just what you need to refresh your mind and body to get through the rest of your shift.
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About Angie Best-Boss RN

Angie Best-Boss, ASN, BA, MDiv is a psychiatric nurse and freelance writer from the Indianapolis, Indiana area. Angie has three daughters and can usually be found with her nose in a book, crafting or, in warm weather, geocaching.