In my four years as a nurse, I have worked both day and night shift. I have gone back and forth about which one I like better, but the truth is, it all depends on the hospital you're at and the goals you have in mind while working.
There are pro’s and con’s to both shifts, and every person may like one or the other for different reasons. I’ve outlined below what I like and don’t like about each shift. Sometimes it takes trial and error to figure out what really works for you. Give them both a shot and notice what works for your body and schedule best!
Day Shift: Pro’s
Working the day shift, you get to be on the same schedule as the majority of the world. It’s nice to start your day in the early morning and go to bed at a decent time. Being on this schedule makes your days off more efficient, because you will naturally wake up early and go to bed early. This leaves the entire day for exploring and errands!
More Flexible Schedule
My favorite part about day shift is being able to work my days however I want, meaning you don't have to work your days straight in a row. I can work every other day without it affecting my cycle (unlike nights). By not working your days straight, it allows for some time to recharge on off days. I typically work my days back-to-back, but sometimes I like working every other day if my unit is demanding. It’s a great way to get rest and balance between shifts.
Day Shift: Con’s
Busy, Busy, Busy
Day shift is a disaster to put it lightly. You’ll never know what a nurse means when she stresses on the day she had unless you’ve experienced the AM shift. You’re constantly being pulled in 100 different directions while trying to keep up with medications, charting and all other tasks. Day shift is when the doctors do rounds, families are visiting, and management is patrolling.
….Again, so BUSY
It never fails that patients have more medications due on day shift. On top of that, doctors are making their rounds, and constantly putting in new orders that you have to obtain too. You’ll get phone calls every couple of minutes, from diagnostics departments, family members, doctors, and the secretary. I can’t stress enough how hectic this shift is.
It all depends on your unit and nurse to patient ratio, but 9 times out of 10 you’re going to be so busy you won’t have time to pee. :) BUT it’s manageable because look at all of us who work days!
Less Quality Time With Patients
With all of that in mind, I feel that on day shift, I don’t have the opportunity to spend time with my patients as much as I want to. Ideally, I would take my time with patients and get to know them and their story. While this is very possible some days, it’s not always the case. Day shift is fast-paced and expectations are high.
Night Shift: Pro’s
Great Pace for New Nurses
Night shift is great for new nurses, because there is more downtime to learn. Day shift can be overwhelming for a new grad, so I suggest trying the nightlife until you get the hang of things. It allows for more time to look at your patient's chart and learn why you are doing what you are doing.
More Quality Time With Patients
I found that nights allowed me to spend more quality time with my patients. You’re usually not overwhelmingly busy, so that leaves time to chat with your patients and give them the time they deserve. There’s usually not as many medications to be given on nights, which leaves time to be spent doing other things.
Downtime is Real
I find that a lot of nurses work nights during school or classes. Because there can be slow nights, it leaves time to do homework and other tasks. I finished writing more blog posts while working nights than I have on any of my days off. This shift is a great opportunity to get caught up on other aspects of your life.
Night Shift: Con’s
I think the main reason people stray away from nights is because it doesn’t serve their body well. I can vouch for this myself, because every time I took a night shift assignment, my health suffered. Although the shift was very doable, I always felt tired and my mind was in a constant fog.
I would be on a night shift schedule for my days on and a day shift schedule for my off days. Some people are able to keep a night shift schedule going, but I love the sunshine way too much. With this being said, I never had a consistent routine for eating and this really threw my body off. It wasn’t until I worked nights for two years, that I finally decided to never do it again. My health was always the first to go and it was never worth it to me.
Days off Are Spent Sleeping
Because you are getting off from a 12-hour shift at 7 am, the majority of your day is spent sleeping. A lot of times, I would take a 4-hour nap and get up and tackle the day, but this always made me uneasy. After a long shift, you need more than a power nap for your body to recharge.
Working Multiple Days in a Row
Most nurses tend to work all three of their 12-hour shifts in a row so they can keep a consistent schedule. While this is very doable, sometimes you don’t want to work that many shifts consistently. You can’t work every other day as a night shifter and keep your health in tip-top shape. Our bodies were meant for routine and if you don’t keep one, you will feel exhausted all the time.
Like I mentioned before, some nurses live their life on a night shift schedule. But if you’re in a new place, chances are you want to explore, and do more than just sleep on your days off!