How to Prepare For Daylight Saving Time as a Nurse

3 Min Read Published November 3, 2023
How To Prepare For Daylight Saving Time as a Nurse

If you’re a night shifter, you know that one of the hardest nights to work is Daylight Savings. Yeah, it’s great in the spring when your shift is only 11 hours, but the dreaded “Fall Back” means an extra hour of night shift craziness.

This year, Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 am on November 5, 2023.

Here are some tips for dealing with daylight savings time as a nurse, especially if you work the night shift.

What is Daylight Saving Time?

Ahh, Daylight Saving Time (DST). That time of year when sleep-deprived nurses get one more wrench thrown into their already busy lives.

Often incorrectly referred to as Daylight Savings Time, this seemingly minor adjustment can interrupt our circadian rhythms, confuse our charting, complicate our medication administration, and just mess with our workdays.

It’s amazing, really, what a difference an hour makes.

Working an extra hour during night shift daylight savings

When is Daylight Saving Time?

DST in the United States begins at 2:00 am on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November at 2:00 am. 

That means that Daylight Saving Time 2023 begins in March and ends on November 5. 

Here’s the DST schedule for the next three years: 





March 12

November 5


March 10

November 4


March 9 

November 2


How Daylight Saving Time Affects Nurses

Interestingly, although we’ve had DST for decades, there still doesn’t seem to be a consensus on exactly how to handle it at hospitals.  And, for night shift nurses, the change can be very disruptive to their lives and patient care.

Shifts and Pay

Private hospitals and for-profit hospitals tend to err on the side of whatever’s most convenient for them. The schedules stay the same:

  • NOC shift nurses normally scheduled for 7 pm - 7 am would simply be paid one hour less during the spring and one hour more in the fall, with the administration claiming "it all evens out." And it does even out. As long as you work both those nights.

Other hospitals take a more reasonable approach and pay nurses for the actual number of hours worked:

  • For example, 11 hours in the spring and 13 hours in the fall. 

  • Another popular option is to keep the pay the same but allow the nurses to leave an hour early or ask them to stay for an extra hour. 

Nursing unions: If you’re part of a nursing labor union, you may be paid the full 12 hours in the spring and then 13 hours in the fall.

Charting and Rounds

Charting is an interesting subject when it comes to DST.  The problem is not so much with the nurses being confused; it’s the computer system’s inability to understand what it means. 

Most modern charting systems have DST built in, but some older systems simply shut down during that time period while the system is reset with the ‘new’ time. 

For nurses using 15-minute rounding sheets, documenting can become messy as well, with 4 additional entries needing to be added to the margin.

There are other considerations as well. IV fluids aren’t such an issue since it’s okay for a patient to have an extra hour of fluids, but NICU nurses must adjust feeding times because, frankly, babies don’t care about Daylight Saving Time.

How to Handle Daylight Saving Time as a Nurse

While it seems that night-shift nurses wouldn’t struggle with the normal sleep issues surrounding DST, that extra hour still interrupts your circadian rhythm or internal clock, leaving you feeling groggy and irritable. 

To ease this transition for the upcoming ‘fall back,’ there are things you can do to prepare: 

  • You may want to try going to work 10-15 minutes later every day or two leading up to the change.
  • Try adjusting your eating schedule slowly leading up to the day.
  • Changing your other routine activities beforehand can help make the transition much easier. 

Why Do We Have Daylight Saving Time?

Benjamin Franklin is often credited for coming up with the concept way back in 1784 as a money-saving measure when candle use was the only lighting option and an expensive one at that.  He argued that rising with the sun and going to bed earlier at night would allow everyone to make use of free morning daylight. 

Since then, DST has gone through several iterations resulting in a colorful history that affects international relations, creates nested time zones, and influences your health. 

Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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