Travel Nursing Tips to Handle Night Shifts Like a Pro
Everyone knows those nurses. The nurses who, by no coercion whatsoever, choose to work the night shift. Are you one of those nurses? A crazy nurse person who lives to work when all others want to sleep, and then sleep when all others are going about their natural lives? I am one of those nurses. And no, no I am not crazy. No crazier than anyone else in the profession of nursing. But, I do typically work the night shift, and honestly, I like doing it.
As a travel nurse looking at assignment postings, you just may find that destination that you really want in that specialty you really want, available – but – available only with travel nursing night shifts. That doesn’t have to turn you off, or away. Let’s see if I can convince you that the night shift has its perks.
Benefits of Working Night Shift as a Travel Nurse
Here’s just a few of the great things the night shift can offer nurses:
- The Crew – The night shift crew has a certain bond. Those bonds come from being not only in the same situation (working when everyone else is sleeping) but from that shared situation being so counter to the typical. There’s something to be said for working with a person who is a coworker and a fellow “weirdo” and not just a coworker.
- Less Management – Don’t get too excited, the night shift does have proper supervision and management as appropriate for each facility’s compliance. However, most of any medical facilities management teamwork a standard Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00 pm work week. This means you being on the night shift, which never falls between those hours, can expect a lot of your contact with management professionals to be via your work email.
- Less Interaction with Family Members – Depending on your personality or your experiences so far in the field, this can fall on the benefits list or the cons list. I put this on the benefits list because I find it less stressful overall and easier to get all my direct care work done and charting done because I don’t have to spend a lot of time also taking care of my patient’s family members. Of course, sometimes there are family members present on the night shift, but the rate is far lower than what the nurses on the day shift see and experience.
- More Money – Hello! Of course, this is a benefit! Have you looked recently at the rates the facility pays for night shifts? The night shift differential is a big deal. I suggest tucking the differential away into another account and using it as a savings account for those things in life you really want but maybe aren’t practical.
Okay, have I convinced you yet? Now that your eyes have been opened to the bright side of working the dark side, let’s talk about some things you can do to get your body on track without having to drink an entire carafe of coffee.
- Sleep – Of course this is the top of the list! The most important part of being a functioning professional, day or night, is sufficient sleep. The day of your first night shift will set the tone for your body, you want to sleep part of the day. To help facilitate this, on the night prior, stay up late so that you sleep in.
- Caffeine in Moderation – If you drink caffeinated beverages, then working night shifts probably won’t change that. But be careful not to drink too much caffeine during your shift or when it does come time to sleep, you’ll have trouble getting your body to settle down enough to get a restful sleep.
- Move Around – If you start to feel the drag of sleepiness, get up! Get your blood pumping, walk around and do your rounds or do a flight of stairs really quick.
- Water – Hydrate! Dehydration can be fatiguing to your body making it harder to concentrate and making you feel slow and tired. Drinking water throughout your shift will keep your body and your brain working at its peak performance level.
- Food – Pack yourself a lunch and healthy snacks to get you through the night shift. Restaurants that are open all night generally have menus heavy with fried and greasy foods. Vending machines generally are not known for their healthy energy options either. Unhealthy and heavy foods can leave you feeling lethargic, and when you are already inclined to be tired, it could make the rest of your shift feel never-ending.
- Have a Routine – You might be inclined to come home from your night shift and fall into bed. You’ll have better luck in the long run though if you put yourself on a routine. Consider that people who work a day shift don’t typically go home and straight to bed. They may do some grocery shopping, cooking, pay the bills, watch a bit of TV or have a chat with a family member, a shower, brush their teeth and then go to bed.
- Check off Your To-Do List – Try to get your daily chores done before going to bed, some of them will be part of your before-bed routine. You will sleep better without the to-do list of things you need to get done running through your brain on repeat.
- Make it Dark and Quiet – Make your bedroom as dark as you can, hang blankets over your curtains or consider investing in some curtain panels that blackout the room. Consider turning on a fan for some ambient noise to drown out neighborhood sounds. Some people have good luck with night noise apps or a white noise machine. Turn off your phone notifications and consider putting a sign on your doorbell warning visitors that you are sleeping.
Travel nurses in any state can employ these techniques to enjoy the benefits of working night shift postings in their desired destinations. Making yourself available for night shifts and being able to work them well and even enjoy them, will open doors for your career as you travel the nation all while saving that differential pay to do or buy special things in special places.
Are you ready to venture into the world of travel nursing? If so, take a look at our hot open travel RN jobs today.