Into The Night: Preparing for A Night Shift
After graduating from nursing school, I began looking for jobs… applying for all of my dream positions. I got the position I worked hard for and was so happy to be able to be given the opportunity! They were looking for more night shift help, so I took on the opportunity! But wait… I had ONLY been on day shifts for nursing school clinicals and classes. I get asked how hard the transition was or how to better prepare for going from days and nights. So, after much time preparing a list, I wanted to share just a few straightforward tools to help you get designed for taking on the night shift or at least what has helped me!
- Prep your sleep schedule: This one can take some time, so if you have a couple of weeks before you start your position, or even just a week... Listen up! I started by taking two nights a week & I would stay up until midnight, then the rest of the week a regular sleep schedule. During the day, sleeping when I could. The following week two nights a week, staying up until 2-3 am. Then the next week, try to stay up the whole night, just like your shift for the night shift. Once that became easy, I just tacked on the extra day or two with that same build-up schedule. Once you can do this, it will become easier to transition to working entire shifts at night! BUT…. Give yourself some grace! It is 100% normal to be still tired and take time to get used to.
- Schedules: Make your night shift daily schedule once you have mastered the sleep schedule. Now, I know what you are thinking… “Shouldn’t I be sleeping?” YES! But not up until the hour before you have to go in. I quickly found out that waking up and getting a workout in, or even just a walk and eating some dinner, helped me SO much transition into a regular weekly schedule on my days off. So, for example, I get home by 8 am, take a quick shower, get ready, and head straight to bed. I wake up between 2 & 3 pm. I get up and either go outside and walk or go work out. Come in, get ready for work. Eat dinner and head out for work by 5:30 or 6:00 pm! It just makes me feel like I have some sense of a norm. AND also helps on my days off to be able to get up at a decent hour and still have some of the day left to get things done!
- Prep, Prep, and Prep: To make the nights easier, I always have my work bag ready, lunch or snacks packed, or at least in the fridge, scrubs laid out. So once I come back in, I just have to get ready and go. This will take some thinking and stress from getting ready and heading to work!
- Night Shift scheduling: Once you get acclimated to your floor, you can usually start scheduling yourself or your requests. So find what works best for you and your current life needs! If you prefer to work three on and then 3 or 4 off, do that! If you need the day in between to regroup, do that! Always communicate that to your supervisor, whoever makes your schedule. If they know your preferences, they are more likely to help you.
I hope these tips help someone in making their transition to nights! Stay safe and for my night shift nurses…. get some sleep! :)
Written by: Haley Goff