Nothing good ever happens after 2 am is something we night shift ER travel nurses would say.

And the truth is, it’s those “after 2 am” high demand cases that made the night shift positions so attractive to me for years.

But if we’re honest, the night shift just plum doesn’t work for some travel nurses for all healthcare and medical workers. Some RNs are dyed in the wool day walkers. And yet other travel nurses have tried it, but perhaps can’t seem to find the right groove.

Why is it that the 12-hour hospital shift between 7p and 7a is the one no one wants to work, yet those of us nurses who wish to work the night shift because we enjoy it is labeled as insane or a little cooky?

The night shift is not for everyone, and when you ask nurses why they work the night shift, most of them are compelled by their facility’s lack of open days. And for some of us, it’s just what we love to do for a variety of reasons.

There is generally a high demand for night shift assignments for travel nurses in the travel nursing industry. Of course, there are also plenty of day shift assignments and positions. I’m merely stating that the facilities and agencies needs for the night shift are typically more significant.

So what is the reason for this?

There are multiple, but the main reason for this is because nursing on a night shift goes against your body’s natural rhythm. Other reasons like better packages, stipends, a bonus, and overall compensation is another massive driver for travelers.

With this in mind, here are my five suggestions for making it through the night shift successfully.

And by the way, I’ve been a night shift travel nurse and agency professional for several years now.

Be sure to sleep during the day

This sounds basic, but the truth is some travel nurses try hard to maintain a normal day-night cycle.

But for those nurses who sleep during the day, maintaining this rhythm is a talent that must be learned if you want to survive 7p-7a jobs.

I personally require total darkness and relative silence, so my housing selection is vital. But that’s for a different article.

I use a white noise app or earplugs to keep things quiet, depending on how much noise I need to drown out. We nurses should get enough sleep between our shifts, at least six hours each night. I strive to get a solid eight hours of sleep the night before my first night shift or day back at the facility.

For me, getting up early and doing a lot (like working out) before my shift makes me sleepier, but some nurses find it more beneficial.

Create and stick to a bedtime ritual.

If you’re working your night shifts in a row, creating a bedtime routine is critical and has numerous benefits.

Your routine should include anything that allows you to unwind or relax after work and prepares your body for sleep.

Following my shift, I usually get home from the hospital and toss my scrubs in the laundry, take a hot shower, drink a glass of red wine, and relax for around twenty to thirty minutes before going to bed.

I might read or journal for approximately 20-30 minutes to unwind from everything that occurred during my shift and on the road home. Especially since there can be some traffic when we night shifters are headed home.

Finding and sticking to the “same” routine has benefits for both the short term and the long term.

Skip heavy meals before bed

I honestly don’t know of folks, nurses or otherwise, who eat heavy meals, or meals at all, just before bedtime.

But there is a minority of nurses and travel nurses who think otherwise.

Of course, after a long day, you’re going to be hungry, and nothing cures stress and a grumbling tummy like some excellent comfort food to wash it all away.

This isn’t ideal for you, but make an effort to have supper at least two hours before hitting the sack.

Eating right before you lay down typically tends to make you feel bloated and, frankly speaking, can also lead to gaining weight.

You should also avoid eating huge meals in the hours leading up to bedtime. You’ll sleep less soundly if you eat extremely heavy food right before going to bed. I usually have something light before I go home from the hospital. After I clock out, I’ll make some instant oatmeal and eat it on the way home.

The health benefits of oatmeal are widely known, plus I won’t feel so full when it’s time to hit the sack.

Make and keep healthy habits during shift

For most of us nurses, it’s a struggle to get through an assignment in and of itself. 

It’s hectic throughout the start, drops for a bit, picks back up, then hits a wall around 3 or 4 am when you’re attempting to stay awake. One thing I do is to avoid excessive amounts of coffee or sugar.

Consider making healthier alternatives such as green tea, juices, or some other natural beverages.

Snacks should be nutritious, increase energy, and have positive health benefits such as nuts and dried fruits, apples and peanut butter, vegetables, and hummus. These will support you with a nice little boost while also preventing you from gaining weight during the night shift; secondly, if you get tired, go for a stroll around your unit or climb a flight of stairs in the hospital.

Genuinely enjoy your days off

We take our nursing jobs seriously and often don’t give ourselves the rest we require between shifts.

Give yourself at least three to five days between your night shift stretches if you can, especially if your contract or agency has you swapping back to a day-shift schedule.

On your days off, rest (really rest!), drink water, exercise, and maintain a healthy diet. These will have massive long and short-term heal impacts for any registered nurse or travel nurse.

When you look after yourself while your body is operating on a regular sleep pattern, it will be simpler to keep up when it isn’t. When you have the opportunity, try to get a massage, do yoga, go hiking, or whatever relaxes you.

The benefits will last a long time.

Finally, spend quality time with your family and friends. You probably haven’t seen them in a while, and it’s essential to get some love and comfort from the people we care about when working as a travel nurse.

The Final Word

The night shift is hard. The hours are long, and the work can be demanding, but with these tips, you’ll survive your shifts night after night. 

Nightshift travel nurses should make their sleep schedules a priority when they have to flip back to day shift or if they have days off in between 12-hour nights on the job.

This means getting plenty of rest during regular waking hours by following a bedtime routine that works for them. In addition, it’s important not to eat before going to bed so as not to gain weight from overeating late at night.

You also want to avoid caffeine and sugar towards the end of the shift. Those will only keep you up longer than necessary – replace them with caffeine-free green tea, juices, healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruits, or even nutritious energy bars.

To learn more about the travel nursing opportunity and cities across the country, visit Bestica Healthcare and start planning your next assignment today.


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