Some things, like codes, are fearsome, but it seems that some new nurses are more afraid of the night shift. It does happen more often, and the shift can be intimidating if you’ve never worked it.
Many nurses come into the profession with some experience of working overnight, but that is not the same as working as a nurse overnight. You are in charge, your manager went home, and when it hits the fan it will splatter you.
Aside from that, though, new nurses need to know how to prepare for a shift that is often looked down upon. It is tiring, busy, and stressful, but many nurses find they would rather work nights than days. Who wants a doctor skulking around anyway?
Yes, you do need to be organized to work night shift. Although you may think that day shift has more going on, you still need to get yourself together when navigating the hallways of the night.
You still have to assess, look for orders, analyze lab results, attend to patient needs, answer bells, and watch for patient condition changes. In addition, you will probably need to do some clerical work because “nothing much happens on night shift.”
So, while you are trying to be a nurse, you will have to do paperwork in addition to your charting. This means you have to plan on when you are going to fit that in between answering a call bell, calling a doctor, and passing those middle of the night inhalers.
Patients tend to get very sick on night shift, but why does this happen? In some cases, it is because the nurse is so distracted by everything else that they are unable to see the patient in the early stages of distress.
You need to make sure you round at least every two hours to prevent this. Some facilities have now gone to a q1h rounding schedule, and that emphasizes how important it is to get your eyes on your patient.
At night, this is harder, because it is easy to think that they are sleeping. In fact, they may be getting sick, so check on your patients as often as you would during the day — perhaps more often because there is so much to do on night shift.
Go easy on the caffeine
You can read about sleeping routines and how to get rest for night shift just about everywhere, but there is one behavioral issue you should consider.
Caffeine may seem like a great idea and maybe it will perk you up for a while. It is great in the moment, but it isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
Caffeine can give you a boost, but you will crash within hours and be more tired. Repeated use of caffeine means that you won’t be able to sleep during the day when you are supposed to be sleeping.
We all know that coffee and energy drinks are popular on night shift, but try to restrict them to the first eight hours on a 12 hour shift – less than that, if you can. More caffeine just upsets your sleep cycle, causing you to be tired when you come in for your next shift.