10 Pros and Cons of Being a Night Shift Nurse
Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Working the night shift as a nurse can be a blessing and a curse at the same time. This is why it is so important that you know what are the pros and cons of being a night shift nurse? There are a lot of pros and cons to working the night shift, but there is one thing that you really need to think about before accepting the job: Are you an owl or a lark? If you are unsure if working the night shift would be a good fit for you, you should consider the top 10 pros and cons of being a night shift nurse that I will provide to you. Below you will find them. After reading this article, I’m sure you will be able to decide if this is a career worth pursuing.
What is a Night Shift Nurse?
As with many careers in health care, the work that needs to be done is 24/7. A night shift nurse is a professional nurse responsible for taking care of patients during the nighttime hours. These hours that you would work are frequently different from your typical 9 AM to 5 PM day shift job or even the 7 AM to 3 PM days. Nurses who work night shifts are busy taking care of patients, but they also have to do administrative tasks. They must document medical information that relates to their patient's care, their status, and what happens during the shift. You will find night shift nurses working in almost all medical settings, such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, doctor's offices via telehealth, and some outpatient clinics.
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TOP CONS OF BEING A NIGHT SHIFT NURSE
(The following are the top 10 disadvantages of working Night Shift as a Nurse.)
1. You may be working with a less seasoned staff
One of the biggest cons of being a night shift nurse is the fact that you will be working with much less seasoned nurses. The older staff members usually do not want to work nights. As a result, you are stuck working with staff members that do not have much experience
. Needless to say, the shift can be scary at times.
2. You will have fewer people to call if there is an emergency.
When you are working as a nurse on the night shift, you are really working alone most of the time. There is less staff on duty, so there will be fewer people to call for help if something goes wrong. If an emergency should arise, you will need to call in the doctors from home. This is a bit scary since there are fewer people to help you in an emergency.
3. You are more prone to more health issues.
One of the top disadvantages of being a night shift nurse is the adverse effects it has on your health
. A common problem among night shift nurses is their propensity to develop health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, due to metabolic changes that result from lack of sleep. Night shift nursing can also affect a nurse's eyesight because of working in such dim lighting. Night shift nurses are also at greater risk for developing age-related macular degeneration than nurses who work regular day shifts. Wow, who knew working nights could be so bad for you.
4. You may gain weight.
Numerous studies have shown that nurses who work nights have a tendency to gain weight
. Female nurses who worked the night shift were more likely to become obese
than their counterparts who worked during regular hours. Researchers theorized that environmental factors associated with working overnight could contribute to weight gain. I don’t know about you, but I never thought that I would be gaining some extra pounds when I accepted a nighttime job.
5. You may be pretty tired.
Working the night shift can leave you feeling utterly exhausted
. Keep in mind that the more tired you are the more likely you will be to make a mistake. You might think it wouldn't be all that tough, but when you are pushing through the day to get back to your regular life after working all night, it can feel much more challenging than you expected. The first day or two after working the night shift can be difficult, and you may feel like you sleep for ages. You will basically live in a state of jet lag.
6. You may miss events
As a nurse working the night shift, you may miss out on some critical events in the lives of your loved ones. If you are a nurse working the night shift, your work schedule can limit what you do during your time off. This is because nurses who work the night shift have to sleep days. You may miss many important events, such as weddings, memorial services, birthdays, and holidays.
7. You will be sleeping all day long.
One of the biggest disadvantages of being a night shift nurse is that you will need to sleep during the day while the world continues to go on around you. You may feel like you do not exist at times. Sleeping can also be difficult if you work or live with someone else who is awake during the day.
8. You may find it hard to juggle your family.
When evaluating the pros and cons of being a night shift nurse, you will need to keep in mind that this schedule may impact your ability to bond with family members. If you will stay up through the night and sleep during the day, then you will miss family time together. Your children may go off to school while you're still asleep. As for spouses, it can be challenging to establish a common schedule when one of you is working the night shift. If you have a child that is too young for school or daycare, you will either have to hire somebody to watch them while you sleep, or you will not get to sleep. You will have to be awake when the child is awake.
9. Your dining choices will be few
As a night shift nurse, you will most likely find yourself having to bring all your own food with you. You will never have a break from cooking. As a night shift nurse, your dinner time is when everyone is asleep. This means restaurants will be closed. Slim pickings.
10. Your safety can be an issue.
One of the cons of being a night shift nurse is the need to be concerned about your own safety. You will be walking to and from your car in the dark at times. The world is a much scarier place when you can't see in front of your face. Not seeing all the movements in front of you can create uneasiness during the night shift. Night shift nurses should take precautions to stay safe.
TOP PROS OF BEING A NIGHT SHIFT NURSE
(The following are the top 10 advantages of working Night Shift as a Nurse.)
1. You may have a monetary incentive.
One of the most significant advantages of working the night shift as a nurse is that many healthcare facilities will give you a monetary incentive for working this shift. For instance, a hospital may pay you an extra five dollars for each hour you work at night. This is often viewed as a safety net to keep nurses from being burned out from working nights too much. When weighing the pros and cons of being a night shift nurse, you need to decide if the monetary incentive is worth working nights. Working nights is hard but, working nights can be a great way to pay off debt or just build up your savings account.
2. You will not have to interface with management.
Another one of the advantages of being a night shift nurse is that you will not have to play nice in the sandbox with management. Those who are in managerial positions are typically home by the time your shift starts. This means that you will not have to put on your happy face or be in a good mood when seeking direction. You will also not need to worry about being micromanaged by your superiors.
3. You will have less traffic on your commute to work.
One of the top pros of being a night shift nurse is the lack of traffic on your way to work and home from work. Have you ever been stuck in an hour-long line trying to get into work? This doesn't happen with the night shift because no one else is on the road at that time. Another advantage would be not having to sit in hours of traffic before getting to work. If this sounds appealing, then maybe the night shift is the right fit for you.
4. You will have fewer meetings to attend
The majority of meetings that occur in the healthcare setting will typically take place during the day. As a nurse working the night shift, you will generally only need to attend the mandatory and safety meetings that occur on this shift. This is great if you are somebody who just cannot stand sitting in a meeting.
5. You will not have as many patient visitors to interface with
One of the biggest advantages of being a night shift nurse is you will not have to deal with patient visitors. In addition, you will not have to deal with any family members of patients. You can just come in and do your job and skip the small talk with patient visitors that can often be time-consuming.
6. There will be fewer changes to your patient’s care at night.
One of the perks of working as a night shift nurse is that you mostly will have minor changes in your patient's care plan. Having fewer changes in your patient's care plan means that you essentially just have to keep everyone stable till morning. It can be a bit less stressful than working days because you don't have to keep up with the constant changes in patients' conditions.
7. There will be fewer procedures that will be performed at night.
One of the pros of being a night shift nurse is that you will find that no elective procedures will be performed. Since you will not be helping to perform any procedures, there is no added stress related to the procedure and its schedule. This means that you will not have to worry about helping with procedures and all the time-consuming documentation that comes along with it.
8. If you are going back to school, you may have a reasonable amount of time to complete your work.
If you are a night shift nurse who is pursuing higher education, then working the night shift is really conducive to getting your work done and studying. You can essentially get all of the care you need to with your patients completed, tuck them in for the night, and then hit the books.
9. You will have plenty of time to complete errands and any appointments.
One of the advantages of being a night shift nurse is that you will have every morning and afternoon off. This is prime time for running errands and scheduling appointments. You essentially do not have to worry about not being able to complete tasks throughout your day. You can go to the bank, grocery store, mall, and drug store. It also gives you time to take care of yourself, such as going to the gym or getting a massage. The possibilities are endless.
10. You will have a strong sense of camaraderie with co-workers
One of the pros of being a nurse who works on the night shift is forming such a strong sense of camaraderie with your co-workers. Since you have the bare minimum in terms of doctors and other services working, you will have to rely on each other for pretty much everything. Your co-workers can also become your most incredible friends. While some people may not want to work the night shift, it comes with a sense of camaraderie that you won't find anywhere else.
My Final Thoughts
It's safe to say that being a night shift nurse is not for the faint-hearted. So, what are the pros and cons of being a night shift nurse? The night shift can be fraught with challenges, but it also brings certain benefits. Whether you're considering becoming a hospital nurse who works at night or you are just curious about what are the potential challenges people face when they do this type of job all the time, I’m sure the top 10 pros and cons of being a night shift nurse we discussed in this article will definitely help you decide if this career path may or may not be suitable for you!
Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.