MASTERING THE NIGHT SHIFT AS A TRAVEL NURSE WHO HAS ONLY EVER WORKED DAY SHIFTS
Nurses are needed to staff healthcare facilities around the clock. This means nurses are working hard while most other people are tucked into bed. A lot of nurses will work the night shift at some point throughout their careers.
Many travel nurses will choose to pick assignments that require them to work the night shift. There are benefits to working at night, but it takes some adjusting. For this reason, our team at One Staff Medical wants to share our advice on mastering the night shift for travel nurses who have never done it.
Pros and Cons of the Night Shift as a Travel Nurse
The typical night shift for travel nurses is 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Although this is when many people are asleep, there are various perks to working the night shift as a travel nurse. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of working these hours.
Pros of the Night Shift
It is no surprise that the night shift (and weekend shifts) are considered less desirable by most. However, because it is outside of typical working hours, this means you’ll get paid more. Less desirable shifts mean more money. The pay will vary by state but could increase by as much as ten percent during these hours.
During the night shift, most patients will be asleep, which means there is a much slower pace. There are also fewer people visiting patients on the floor, so there are fewer distractions, and you can provide patients with more one-on-one attention.
If you are traveling with children or a partner, you can spend time with them during the day and do various activities. However, rest is crucial, so don’t do too much if it means jeopardizing sleep.
Because you’ll be working at night, your days will be wide open. While it is important to rest during this time, it will also be easier to schedule things like doctor appointments or haircuts because you won’t need to work around your nursing schedule.
As a traveling nurse, you can also take the daytime to explore the local area and visit nearby tourist attractions.
Cons of the Night Shift
Of course, there are also cons to working the night shift as a travel nurse. After all, we already mentioned that night shift nurses get paid more for working at less desirable times.
First, when you are first making the switch to night shifts, certain biological functions can be thrown off because your body is functioning opposite its normal rhythm.
Although things are usually calmer during the night shift, this can also be a downside, especially for nurses who are new to working these hours. When patients are sleeping, there is likely less to keep you busy and distracted from thinking about how tired you are as you transition to your new schedule.
Working the night shift also means might mean you need to miss certain things throughout the day. This often means giving up social and family events from time to time. While it can be tempting to skip a good night’s sleep, so you don’t have to miss anything, remember rest and sleep is vital to your health and safety as well as your patients.
6 Tips for Surviving the Night Shift as a Travel Nurse
Now that you are aware of the pros and cons of nursing night shifts, we want to share our tips for mastering the night shift for the first time.
1. Create a Sleep Schedule
The easiest way to create a routine is to jump right into it. Try your best to stick to a sleep schedule that works for you. This should involve getting at least seven hours of sleep.
To ensure that you get enough rest, we have some tips and tricks to help you relax before bed. For example, if you usually have a bedtime routine, stick to it when you start working the night shift. Before crawling into bed, do the things you normally do, such as washing your face and brushing your teeth. Reading a book and drinking herbal tea is also great for preparing you for a good night’s rest.
We also recommended investing Invest in blackout curtains to help you fall asleep during the day. This will prevent sunlight from peaking into your room and allow you to trick your body into thinking it’s nighttime.
2. Make Friends with Other Night Shift Nurses
Make your night shifts go faster by making friends with your fellow night shift nurses. When you get along with the people you work with, the shift will go much more quickly. However, there are additional benefits to becoming friends with other nurses.
On your days off, invite one of your coworkers to do something. Try to do something during or at least around the hours you would otherwise be working. This can help you stick to a routine and make it more fun to stick to these hours on your day off when you have plans with a nursing friend.
3. Keep Your Brain Alert while Working
Since night shifts are usually a slower time of day, try to do things that will keep your brain alert and awake. There are likely tasks that you can do during the night shift to help the day shift nurses. This could help relieve some of their work the next day. If you get through these tasks quickly, try to find other constructive ways to keep busy. Engaging your brain will help you rest after your shift.
If you find yourself having extra downtime, here are a few ideas to help you stay busy:
- Listen to podcasts
- Read books
- Read medical and nursing journals
- Study a new language
- Chat with coworkers
- Do brain puzzles like crosswords or sudokus
4. Monitor Your Health
Unfortunately, night shifts can have adverse effects on your health. As you get used to your new schedule, you should check for changes in your overall health. Night shift nurses may experience insomnia, high blood pressure, weight gain, and menstrual irregularities. You also may be at a higher risk for catching a common cold or experiencing flu-like symptoms during the winter season.
Read our blog 6 Tips for Staying Healthy as a Travel Nurse for more suggestions on prioritizing your health as a traveling nurse.
5. Fuel Your Body with Nutritious Foods
It can be easy to opt for quick meals while on the clock, but these aren’t typically the best options for our health, energy, and performance. Fueling your body with nutritious meals will boost energy levels and help you adjust to your new schedule quicker. Many night shift nurses elect to eat several smaller meals throughout the day to increase stamina. For example, having healthy grains like oatmeal or whole-grain toast will help sustain energy throughout the day.
Meal prepping is a great option to ensure you have healthy meals available. You can focus on planning your meals on your day off and can worry about getting rest before and after your shifts.
6. Don’t Drink Too Much Caffeine
While caffeine certainly helps you get through your night shift, be careful not to drink too much of it. As you adjust to your new schedule, rest is very important. Overdoing the coffee, tea, or soda intake can make it difficult to fall asleep when your shift is over. Try to limit your caffeine consumption to 400 milligrams per day.
If you are interested in mastering the night shift, OneStaff Medical can help you find the perfect assignment that fits what you are looking for. Start working with one of our staffers by calling us at 877-783-1483.