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Five Things to Know About Night Shift Nursing

Advancing Health Outcomes
September 14, 2016
Five Things to Know About Night Shift Nursing

Most nurses are used to working hours outside of the typical “9 to 5,” but night shift nurses are on a whole different level. Night shift nurses play an indispensable role in keeping people healthy – whether working through the night at an emergency room or caring for patients throughout hospitals floors. However, in order to remain healthy themselves, night shift nurses must take certain measures. Rosa Tucker, RN, has been a night shift nurse for 35 years. She works at the Bon Secours hospital intensive care unit (ICU) in Baltimore, Md. Read on for her advice on how to thrive in your career while working the night shift.

1.    Night shift nursing can allow some nurses increased flexibility in their personal lives.

Tucker has been a nurse for 40 years, and worked on the night shift for 35 years. She chose to work at night because she wanted the flexibility to further her education and have time with her daughter. Night shift nursing can allow many nurses valuable time in the mornings and evenings with loved ones, as well as the opportunity for classes or increased education.

2.    Self-care is extremely important in order to adopt the night shift schedule.

When working on the night shift, Tucker noted that having discipline to maintain a healthy lifestyle is very important. When your schedule is the opposite of most of the world, you have to hold yourself accountable for getting exercise, eating a nutritious diet and getting enough sleep. Some nurses use drapes, eye masks and other tools to block out sunlight when they are trying to get shut eye. Getting into routines can help, such as waking up and exercising before you head to your shift, or planning meals ahead of time.

“And don’t forget to enjoy your life when you are off the clock,” said Tucker. “Taking care of yourself and spending time with people you love will help you be a stronger nurse when you come back for the next shift.” 

3.    Be careful about switching from night shift to day shift nursing.

According to Taylor, a rotating night shift schedule can be hard on the body. She has found that working at least one week of night shifts before switching to another time slot makes it easier.  

4.    Hospitals can take certain steps to improve the experience of working the night shift.

Contrary to popular belief, Tucker says her ICU unit can be just as busy at night as it is during the day. Night shift nurses are part of the same team of healthcare providers as the day shift.

At Bon Secours, she feels the whole team works together as one unit. Her unit developed a dual checklist that is used by all staff members (night or day) in the ICU. By creating a sense of camaraderie and continuity regardless of shift,  patients can expect the same standards of care.

Bon Secours has won numerous workplaces awards, including “Best Place to Work,” “Great Workplace Award” and the 2016 WorldatWork Seal of Distinction. Her team also offers classes for quality and performance improvement. Plus, she appreciates the break room with a “relaxing chair” when staff is on a break.

5.    The night shift can create special connections between patients, families and the healthcare team.

Tucker says her hospital is open for visitors 24 hours a day, and the nighttime hours can bring her face-to-face with patients, their families and their fears. In the quiet nighttime hours, the severity of patients' conditions – especially at her ICU unit – can set in. She has found the opportunity to care for patients during such a vulnerable time to be a true calling.

To read another story about night shift nursing, read about this new pediatric nurse’s experience working at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta by visiting www.DiscoverNursing.com.

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