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Working the Night Shift

Over at Nursing Voices, there was a recent post about working the night shift as a new grad.

I worked 11p-7a right out of school. I trained on evenings (3p-11p) for a few weeks then switched to night shift. There were no day/evening shift positions at the time. I’d worked nights during school on the weekends as an aide, so it wasn’t completely new to me.

But it still completely sucked.

I sleep best at night. I like it dark and quiet. Sleeping during the day, for me, was horrible. Room darkening shades helped, but nothing much helped the noise. The majority of the world is awake during the day, and there are lots of traffic sounds, lawns to be mowed, and doorbells to be rung. At first it was kind of neat, being a full-time child of the night… but the novelty wore off quickly. Driving home in the new day’s sunlight made my brain resistant to sleep. Even if I slept 8 hours, I still woke up groggy. And trying to keep up with the rest of the world (friends who kept “normal hours”) was hard. I found myself staying home on my days off and vegging in front of the TV or computer. I gained weight by eating carbs during the day, trying to perk myself up. I used to fall asleep again when it got dark outside and have to wake up again to go to work and literally cry because I could not fathom staying up all night again.

Once I got to work, though, I was usually fine. I worked on a very busy unit and there was plenty to do to keep me occupied. After 6 months, though, I moved on to CVICU, where there were only two shifts – 12 hour days and 12 hour nights. Of course there were no day shift positions. The plus was that I’d only work 3 nights a week instead of 4 or 5. The minus was that I was no longer able to take that nap at night when it got dark. I had to get good quality sleep in during the day, which was hard for me to do. I tried to sleep for only a few hours on my days off in order to sleep that night, but that just made me groggy and again I found myself vegging on the couch instead of out and about.

I jumped at the chance when a day shift position opened up. I had been watching the job board for months, and even secretly wished that someone working days would transfer to a different unit or hospital. A few of us put in requests for it, but I managed to snag it with only a few weeks seniority over the others.

It was a different world for me from then on. Never again will I work night shift. Day shift is much different from nights with all the comings and goings, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Within a month after starting days, it was like a fog lifted from my brain. I felt so much better. I was so thankful to be able to sleep at night again. Unfortunately, one of nursing’s occupational hazards is candy and goodies brought in by family members and former patients – so the weight situation didn’t change much. Everyone knows that day shift eats all the good stuff before the night shift comes on anyway :)

What’s your story? There’s a poll up at Nursing Voices. Were you forced to work nights starting out? Did you immediately switch to days when you could, or did you discover that you liked being up at night?

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For the past seven years I have worked as a Patient Care Services Supervisor from 2000 to approximately 0830 every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at a medium-sized hospital on the Pacific Northwest coast. I also participate in daytime, weekday management meetings. I have yet to adjust to the noc shift. I never feel rested, and my judgement is wobbly at times (staff certainly – and kindly – let me know when my brilliant problem-solving falls short of the mark). I MISS SLEEPING AT NIGHT! I miss puttering in the yard during the heat of the day. I miss sitting with friends in the shade of the picnic tree. I miss my brain, my joie de vivre, and I MISS THE LIGHT.

Last month, at age 55, it occurred to me that I have only have about 25 more summers to live. Consequently I have begun an employment search which will, if successful, result in a daytime job!

Looking forward,


I am a brand new RN graduate, and after missing out on EVERY job in the first round of hires a few months ago, finally took a night now. I haven’t even started yet, and even though we are litterally starving to death…I am divorced with two children, I am already wishing I had opted for welfare instead. I know, never did that, probably should have at some point…but I’m afraid. I know myself, and while I can sleep on a moment’s notice anywhere, well…I can sleep on a moment’s notice anywhere, and if I don’t get enough sleep, or am not rested enough, I’m a nightmare. When I had both chlidren, as much as I loved mothering, I still remember the lack of sleep as near suicidal stress for me. I’m praying for a day job, and have every intention of walking out and burning this bridge forever if it takes that to accept a day job, but with all our new hire dates in June, that’s still months on nights. ANY suggestions, feel free. My fear, is that as the only adult in the house, I might not even know how it’s affecting me. A friend will watch the children when I’m gone, a rare chance to get my foot in the door, and something I never anticipated as available to me, but still…
How bad, sincerely, is it to walk out after a few months on your first job in favour of a day offer? Am I even going to find a hospital willing to hire me knowing I’m about to walk out of the first hospital after just a few months?
I’m also insulin resistant, tend to be very hypoglycemic, though not diabetic. I’m on medication for that, but worry how nights will hurt my health. I’m the only parent left for the children, but also the only support. So the money is worth the risk, but I need to find a fast-track transition to days ASAP, even as I’m starting nights. I don’t think there is ANY way we could survive until even a possible day job around June, nursing school was already more than I should have put us through. Help!
There isn’t anyone to monitor my funtionality, or help here at all. Everyone in my family is gone, and the only ‘help’ is the friend taking the children…and even she says only until end of July. How do you make it through the night shift for now, and how do I get the day thing going when I’m running out on a new job? thanks so much…

So, what brought you to the hospital today?

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  • profileI am Gina. I have been a nurse for 15 years, first in med/surg, then CVICU, inpatient dialysis, CCU and now hospice. This blog is about my experiences as a nurse, and the experiences of others in the healthcare system - patients, nurses, doctors, paramedics. We all have stories!

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