5 Reasons Why Travel Nurses Would Actually Want To Work Night Shift
By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
My relationship with the night shift has always been a tenuous balance between love and hate. Being on day shift allows for a more normal routine and definitely makes my husband more at peace with my work schedule. The feeling of being fully rested on my off days has led me to continue taking day shift assignments, but there is always a small piece of me that is envious when I meet the new night shift crew.
Night shift has plenty of downsides–less support staff on duty, irregular sleep schedules, and more difficulty contacting physicians are just a few of the problems any night shift nurse could list for you. But at the end of the day, there is a reason many travel nurses prefer nights even if travel contracts don’t come with a hefty night shift differential.
Less support staff at night means night shift travel nurses don’t have to learn extra procedures for working with these staff members.
One of the first things I ask about at each new assignment is how to contact people I have to coordinate care with on day shift. Whether you are trying to contact a social worker or order lunch, there is a different procedure for these tasks at each hospital.
If you work the night shift, you have the blessing—and the curse—of not having access to most of these extra pieces. While missing out on the support may cause some stress, it is nice to know you don’t have to relearn these procedures because they simply don’t apply to your shift. Unless it is a rare exception, the night shift gets to skip over this piece of knowledge when zipping through each new orientation.
Less pressure from management or less involvement in unit politics.
I wrote a whole article on the reasons why travel nurses should avoid hospital politics. The bottom line is: it’s much harder to accomplish this during the day shift.
One of my least favorite scenarios is having a manager wander through on day shift and stop to ask my opinion on the unit. I appreciate the fact that they are looking for constructive feedback, but I also like to have more time to think through responses and articulate my feelings.
As a night shifter, you are much less likely to get pulled into these types of conversations. If a manager is looking for some feedback it will be easier to strike up that conversation via email. For me, I prefer this method because I can still give meaningful feedback without becoming too involved in whatever issues the manager is trying to address.
Patients are less likely to need to be prepped for procedures and testing.
Another policy that can change drastically between assignments is pre- and post-procedure policy. I have seen several variances from how a patient is transported to how frequently nurses monitor post-op vital signs.
I very rarely had to know the details of these procedures on the night shift. Except for rare emergent cases, my patients rarely left the floor at night. I was especially thankful as a new traveler to not have to learn the ins-and-outs of consents and transport when I was desperately trying to pick up on all the other new procedures during my short orientation.
The night shift lull can be a great time to get to know your coworkers.
During the day shift, the 2-4 p.m. period can be one of the busiest. This is when baths are fit in, discharges and admissions become a revolving door, and all the catch-up charting happens before starting the 4 p.m. rounds.
On the night shift, this is what I liked to refer to as the “golden period.” Once your midnight rounds are done you inevitably cross your fingers and hope for no excitement during this chunk of the night. Some of my favorite memories as a night shift nurse were made during this time frame, where patients are finally sleeping for a bit and families have calmed down enough to get a bit of rest themselves.
As a traveler, this is when you have time to get to know your coworkers. Use this to your advantage and strike up conversations or share some stories to make the shift go a little faster for everyone.
Breakfast drinks are a great icebreaker to meet new friends.
There is a weird bond that can only be formed over a glass of local beer at 8 a.m. in the dingy bar two blocks from the hospital.
If you are feeling shy or struggling to make friends at your new assignment, one of my favorite ways to break the tension is to ask about the favorite night shift hangout. I have found that once you have a breakfast and beer date with new coworkers, a wall comes down that allows for more camaraderie and connection at work.
Even though I enjoy having a normal schedule and not having to nap on my days off, as a traveler I truly do miss working the night shift. There is a certain bond that all night shifters share and I don’t feel like day shift has quite the same connection.
I absolutely loved my night shift assignments and felt they were less stressful for reasons other than the stereotypical “Oh, it must be easy because all of your patients are sleeping” (Hard eye roll to that statement). Even if the money doesn’t necessarily change between day and night shift for travelers, I certainly understand the draw many nurses would feel to work nights as a travel nurse and am thankful for those who love the nocturnal life and adjust to it so well.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. Alex enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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