The Hidden Perks of Night Shift
by Rachel Johnston, Seattle area RN
It’s 3 AM, and you’re at work. You’re exhausted. One of your patients won’t stop screaming, and another has just pressed the call light for the fourth time in one hour. You’re behind in your charting, but you can barely keep your eyes open to finish it anyway.
All you want is a hot cup of coffee, but of course everything is closed, and you can’t possibly bear to drink the instant powder stuff they have in the break room. You find yourself spacing out about how wonderful it’ll be to climb into bed when you finally get off shift, until you’re interrupted by a cranky, tired coworker who is asking for help turning her patient.
You sigh, face reality, and continue on with what feels like an endless night of work.
Ahh, the night shift. For those of us who have been called the night owls, the night walkers, the graveyard workers, or whatever other silly name people come up with to label us night shifters, we are familiar with the scenario above. In fact it probably is a relatively frequent occurrence for many of us.
We are tired on our days off, and sometimes we even forget what day it is. Our friends say we should get on a “normal” schedule, and day shift nurses rave to us about how much better they feel than when they worked nights.
Alas, it’s not that easy. Working nights is like a black hole that sucks you in, and before you know it you’ve been a night shifter for five years and forgotten about that one time you said that you would eventually like to go to day shift. Let’s be honest, you know you’ve at least thought about it at one time or another. But while many may scoff at our crazy schedules and our inability to wake up before 10 am on our days off, little do they know that night shift has a few hidden gems that make our schedule totally worth it.
1. The potlucks are unbelievable. I mean, unbelievable. In fact most of the time, they make Vegas buffets look like a Motel 6 continental breakfast. Night shift nurses pull out all the stops when it comes to potlucks, whether it’s for a baby shower, or Christmas, or because it’s Wednesday and why not have a potluck?? I distinctly remember one potluck where one of our nurses brought in an entire roasted pig. Or another where we had a “breakfast for dinner” theme, and brought in three griddles to cook bacon. It was rough for all of those NPO patients who kept complaining of smelling bacon, but you definitely didn’t hear any of the nurses complaining.
2. You get paid more. This one is a no-brainer. Every hospital and state is a little different, but there is no denying that the night shift differential plays a big role in why night shift nurses stay on nights. And the longer you stay on nights, the more that you get used to that extra income. Let me give you a wise piece of advice – if you decide to switch over to days, plan to work some OT, at least for a little while. Trust me – your bank account will thank you.
3. No family! Well, I suppose I should say less family – let’s be honest, some of them just NEVER leave. But chances are, the ones that do stick around are probably sleeping instead of asking you for ice chips or a wash cloth or a blanket or an apple juice or lord knows what every five seconds. Although you may have to sneak around their sleeper chair every time you try and care for the patient, at least they’re quiet.
4. No management! And with no management comes an unmistakable feeling of liberty. You can watch YouTube videos at the nurses station when things are slow instead of doing your online education (which we all hate doing). You can pull your cell phone out and respond to texts without having to worry about whose watching you do it. And best of all, you can snack at the desk! If you’re busy and you need to chart, you can take your giant plate full of potluck food right out to the nurse’s station and kill two birds with one stone – getting your work done, and stuffing your face. With no management, the possibilities are endless!
5. You work with the best team ever. This, by far, is the hardest thing to give up about nights. Now don’t get me wrong, day shift nurses are great; but there’s something about working nights that turns a regular group of nurses into a hard working, fun loving, unbreakable team that would do just about anything for one another. No matter how crappy your night is, you know you have a great team to rely on to help you through it – and get 8 am beers with if the night was really THAT bad.
So whether you’re a new grad nurse that’s dreading starting on night shift, or a night shift nurse that’s considering going to the dark side (or should I say light side?), just remember- you’ll be missing out on a few key ingredients to a happy work life.
Sure, you’ll feel “normal” on your days off, and maybe you’ll start remembering what day of the week it is, but no one can deny that night shift offers some perks that are truly hard to beat. And just in case you're not on board yet, there are several tips to survive the night shift !
Love the night shift but just need a change of scenery? Check out open night shift positions available near you .