Are you going to be working night shift as a new nurse? Most new nurses enter the field of nursing working the night shift. I recently published an article about how it is to work day shift as a nurse and gave an hour-by-hour account on what you might expect during a 12 hours shift (7 a – 7 p).
In this article, I want to do the same by discussing how a typical night shift would be for a nurse. Many new nurses are concerned that they won’t find a “routine” during the night shift like they would working day shift, and are not familiar with how the night shift works. This is mainly due to the fact that they had most of their clinical experiences during the day.
This hour-by-hour account is based on a nurse who works in a hospital as a floor nurse on a telemetry, medical surgical, or progressive care unit. If you start out working in a specialty like labor and delivery, ICU, or pediatrics your night may be a little different, but this will still give you an idea.
Benefits of night shift:
- Not many doctors rounding
- Fewer people to deal with like family members, management, etc
- Usually you are paid more than a day shift nurse due to night shift premium
- No discharges (very, very rarely)
- More teamwork than day shift
Downsides to working night shift:
- Few resources to help you
- Extreme tiredness and it is hard for your body adjust (some people adjust better than others)
- Higher patient loads than compared to day shift
- Being on an opposite schedule compared to rest of the world
Video on Night Shift Nursing
Here is a video I made discussing what it is like to work as a night shift nurse. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more videos.
What it is like to Work Night Shift as Nurse
1900: Get report from day shift, start planning you night by looking at orders for who is having:
- am labs
- need turning at night
- special preps
- NPO past midnight
- when are medications due (major medications pass are usually at 2200 & 0500-0600)
2000: Meeting patients, performing shift head-to-toe assessments, getting vitals signs (sometimes done by the nursing assistant if you have one), following out any new doctor’s orders that day shift didn’t get done or new orders recently written, answering call lights, getting patients ready for bed, helping patients go to the bathroom
2100-2200: helping patients to bed, administering PRN (as needed medications) because patients usually want their sleep aids or pain medications, helping patient’s brush teeth and set-up room to go to bed
2300: charting your head-to-toe assessments, updating care plans, and other necessary paperwork, answering call lights, finishing up giving any medications, dealing with admissions if you have an empty room
2400-0100: catching up on charting, giving random time sensitive medications (ex: IV antibiotics), rounding on patients, answering call lights, getting “lunch”
0200-0400: Dangerous time to feel extremely sleepy (some people also experience nausea), dead time because patients are asleep, some units have special jobs for the night shift to do like chart checks, checking for expired drugs & supplies etc, dealing with any admissions
- Tips for staying awake:
Drink cold liquids
Keep it cold in the nursing station
Avoid large meal at lunch
Avoid sitting still by trying to find something to do
0500: Some patient’s are waking (typically your older patients) and they need the bathroom, coffee, or some PRN medication, getting vitals signs (sometimes done by the nursing assistant if you have one), getting patients ready for testing or surgery (completing necessary paperwork and preps), drawing am labs, wrapping things up
0600: Giving medications, more patients waking, and getting ready for report
0645: Giving report and leaving!
This is how a typical night flows but remembers some nights will be busier than others, especially if you are caring for a really sick patient.
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