Friday, April 27, 2012

Days vs Nights

  The eternal question when looking at jobs in nursing, days or nights? That's the wonderful thing about the healthcare industry, we are 24/7. This can lead to amazing flexibility in when and how often you work. In very few jobs can you say you work full time and only work 3 days in a week.  Yes I know it can be frustrating because we do not always have the option to have major holidays off to be with our families, but in truth nursing offers some of the most flexible scheduling options. 

  Think about this. Some hospitals will hire nurses only for weekends due to a lack of staff interested in working these days. If you work the ER there are a number of different shifts up for grabs, your traditional 7-7, 12-12 even 10-10. If you think you would like a regular 9-5 five days a week kind of job then you may love working in a doctors office or outpatient surgery. The options are really endless. The first real question that you need to ask yourself is days or nights?

  The majority of society works during the daylight hours, so it is pretty normal to know how things are going to work out. For many people nights is a very alluring possibility, the shift differential, the lack of round physicians, and less need for child care. These are all good reasons to think about trying night shift, but many people wonder can they survive? 

  That is a very hard question to answer. Personally I was born for the night shift, literally. My parents tell stories about me as a baby being up all night and sleeping all day. To this day I am a night owl and would rather be up prowling around at 2am then waking up at 6am to face a new day. A friend of mine asked me the other day how you know if you are just NOT cut out for nights as she was thinking about switching because she could really use the extra money. So I sat down and thought about all the people I have seen try to switch to night and what made them fail or succeed. Here's what I cam up with.

  Do you have a circadian rhythm? Are you one of those people that starts yawning the minute the sun goes down and jumps out of bed at sunrise? If you are the night shift may not be for you. It's very hard to break that natural rhythm. One fellow who started working at the same time I did was that type and within 2 months was desperately looking for a spot on days. He just could not break his body of that rhythm. It was so bad that when the sun began coming up earlier, he could not sleep when he got home.  

  How do you sleep? Are you very particular, do you need silence, the room to be dark, for it to be cold? These are things that very few people take into account and begin to notice as they try to adjust. People forget that during the day there is so much more activity taking place that you may find the general everyday noise to hinder your sleeping. Me, I sleep a coma, dead to the world, no word of a lie but I slept through an earthquake once. The noise doesn't bother me, but if you are used to sleeping at night when most of the world is in bed you may find the amount of noise to be earth shattering.

 Can you sleep with the lights on? Personally I think there is nothing better than curling up in bed with a sunbeam on my face, me and the cat often fight over napping spots. But a lot of people find that little spot light obnoxious. Think it over carefully, blackout curtains only work so well. My suggestion is think about if you nap well during the day, and if you do nap where and for how long you do. Ask yourself do you sleep deeply or just drowse? Remember the quality of sleep you get will be a huge factor in how you feel deep into your 12 hours.

  What kind of a nurse are you? Are you very task oriented, do you prefer to have everyone leave you alone? I hear it over and over, the differences in nurse on days versus nights is well like day and night. This is very true, don't listen to the lies that one is easier than the other, because they are not, but they are hugely different. Knowing yourself is key to finding a good fit. Having worked both shifts I will say this...

  Day shift tends to be very task oriented. Take your patient to CT scan, then PT, then speak with the rounding physicians and participate with Case Management etc.  If you like a lot of structure to your shift, days is an excellent place for you. On days everyone is around, doctors are constantly in and out along with all the other departments, if you like to influence and take a very active role in your patients care, you will do great on days.

  Nights is a whole different kettle of fish. Doctors rarely round on nights, in fact you rarely see anyone in the evening, meaning it's just you and your compadres. If anything goes down, it's up to you to figure out how to deal with it. If you work nights you will need to be comfortable knowing that you call the shots. You need to be able to work independently and have a high level of critical thinking, it's up to you to decide when to call the Doc for orders, or ask the Hospitalist to come and actually look at the patient because they are heading south. You will need to be ok with getting yelled at when you wake up a Doc in the middle of the night and they do not agree with your assessment of the situation, and you will need be strong enough to stand up to the Doc who doesn't want to leave the sleeping room to come see your patient, but you know they need to.

  In the end sometimes all you need to do it try it. There have been many people who have though they had no business being on one shift or the other and found their niche. And in the end if you really can't take it you can always transfer when an opening arises!


  1. Love night shift! I actually sleep better during the day and after night shift I am tired and ready to sleep. I toss and turn at night for some reason and wake up q2h for no reason.

    1. I'm the same way. I've also noticed that if I work the day shift I keep finding some excuse to stay up, then before I know it it's midnight and I only get like 5 hours sleep. If I work a night shift, I go straight to bed and get like 7 or 8.

  2. Thank you for this post! It is so true, and sometimes you really don´t know before you try! I nearly left nursing because I could not sleep after nights, and in the end my whole sleep pattern were not good! Sadly, in some countries there is not much options on when to work, you either do doctors office or a full on day, afternoons and nights rotation. Sometimes that means all three in one stretch! :(

    1. Yes Milla you are very right. I think often nurses in the USA get a little spoiled because we have so many choices. We often forget that there were days when you had to work nights, then days, and that some countries still do that. I am very lucky to have had a choice as to when I work AND to get paid for it

  3. Enjoy it! :) Maybe US should be my next place to work!:) hihi


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