I made it out of residency alive! Let me tell you it kicked me butt. Also, for one considering loading up on classes for the post-licensure portion. Wait until you get a taste of new grad night shift life!
Chances are you will not have to do night shifts for residency, but will have to do night shifts for your new grad position. Here is how I temporarily converted to a night owl based on recommendation from night shift nurses. Here also some pros and cons to be aware of!
Converting to Nights:
How does one go from waking up at 0500/0600 to waking up at 1630? I started “training” myself a week prior. I also used amazon prime to invest in earbuds, an eye mask, melatonin, and broke out some lavender water I already had.
Step 1: I would sleep in as late as I could and stay up as late as I could. Finding a good show on netflix helps!
Step 2: Use caffeine and a midday nap to kickstart the process! Staying up past 3-5am is the hardest part.
Step 3: It is now 6-8am. Usually, I would be so exhausted from staying up so late and fighting to make it this far that I would pass out.
A. You sleep like a rock. Skip this step.
B. You’ve been asleep a couple hours and everyone else is starting their day. The dreaded daytime noises you never noticed are waking you up. You can apply the earbuds/eyemask now (or I like to do this when I go to bed). I also like to spray lavender water on my eye mask and pillow, but a diffuser works great too!
Step 5 (optional): Sleeping aids. Sometimes my morning-loving brain would restart and think we were just beginning the day and not want to sleep. Other times, I would wake up at noon and could not go back to sleep. My go to? Melatonin. I usually stick with 2.5mg and it will put me right to sleep. Occasionally, I will need to take an additional 2.5mg. I ONLY USE THIS WHEN NEEDED! Taking this every day on will make you rely on it to fall asleep and build a tolerance. Some people recommend Benadryl. I am not a fan because of studies linking it to an increased risk of dementia.
I am creature of habit so this was necessary. For some, they can be awake and sleep on command. Once you have your first night shift, you’ll be so exhausted you should go right to sleep when you’re off and then you’ll fall into a rhythm for the rest of the shifts.
It is much easier to learn the ropes on nights. The beginning is still busy, but once the patient/families go to sleep the care is primarily what I would like to call “maintenance”. You’re getting them through the night. That doesn’t mean doing the bare minimum until day shift comes. Actually, it is quite the opposite. You should be doing your very best to set up day shift for success (see cons). After the initial rush, you typically have much more time to sit down and really get to know your patient. You also have time to look up an topics related to your patient you are unfamiliar with, and your preceptor has more time to sit down and explain things to you. Night shift is very conducive to learning and I actually think it will be beneficial for me to start on nights until I find my groove.
Let’s get through the obvious first. You are awake and working while normal people sleep. If you are a night person, you won’t have any problems. If you are a morning person like me, this will be a huge lifestyle shift. I completely converted to nights. For my mental health, I need routine. Some people can flipflop easily and work nights then be a normal person on their days off. Figure out what works best for you. For me even going full night owl, I was chronically tired…. MAJOR CON! Another con… like normal people… most attending work during the day. This means you may need to call and wake up a physician. This is never fun so be sure to have your SBAR and reason for calling down before you call. Remember how I said you are setting up day shift for success? Depending on your hospital, this may mean doing hygiene and some tidying during your shift per protocol. Patients need to sleep to so you have to get their hygiene done before they go to sleep. Depending on your patient load, this leaves a lot to be done by midnight (LATEST).
Night Shift Recipe for Success:
- Figure out a schedule!
- If you need to go full night owl or can flipflop between night shift and being a normal person on your days off.
- Once you have a schedule/strategy, stick to it!
- Group your shifts together if you can!
- GET ENOUGH SLEEP!
- Do not try to stay awake for 24 hours.
- This unsafe and will lead to exhaustion, mistakes, and depression.
- Caffeine… nuff’ said.
- Eat healthy and bring foods that are easy on the tummy.
- You are more likely to gain weight on night shifts. Being tired can make it tempting to go for the brownies. Bring healthy foods!
- Also, I would get nauseous because my body would be hungry but I wouldn’t be perceiving the hunger. I knew I needed to eat come my “lunch” but being up at 2am when your body isn’t used to eating is hard. I brought foods that I knew I could eat and were easy on my stomach.
- Stay active! Easier said then done, I know.
- For me, this meant going on walks on my days off. This is literally all I could manage because I was so tired all the time.
- When I have to go back to nights, I will probably start doing yoga and/or pilates. I just won’t have the energy to do runs and weights like I used to.
Here are some posts in the works! Be sure to comment any questions related to the below topics and I will try to answer them in my post!
- How to prepare for a PCU/ICU preceptorship and new grad position
- NCLEX tips and resources (once I pass)
- Reference letters
- Resume/Cover Letter/Portfolio Tips (Once I land a new grad position)
- My scoop on best places to apply for new grad (TBD)
- New grad apps and interviews (coming October-ish)
- Balancing new grad and post-licensure courses (this will come once I have actually mastered it and come up with some tips to survive… so around December-ish)
- My shift “flow” (once I land a new grad)