In some facilities, there is a great deal of animosity between shifts. Sometimes, this stems from the lack of understanding about what the other shifts do.
Although many nurses now work 12 hour shifts, the three shifts still apply. You only get half of second shift in a 12 hour scheme, but it is different from the other eight hours you are working.
Instead of getting angry with the nurse you are following, give some thought as to what they went through during their shift. If they ask you to do something extra, it is probably not because they are lazy but because they are swamped
First shift is the start of the day, and this is usually when a good deal of the action happens. This isn’t to say that action doesn’t happen on other shifts, but first shift has a particular set of challenges.
As with all nurses, meds are a priority, but doctors are often rounding at this time. You have to be prepared to give a report on how the patient did through the night and be vigilant in checking for orders in the system.
Many other subspecialties round at this time, too. For instance, physical therapy, social services, and even the charge nurse may round in a group.
This means that the first shift nurse is often interrupted to answer questions about patients from colleagues. All nurses are interrupted, but these are interruptions that are usually not from the patients themselves.
Second shift is usually a difficult shift, and it is often hard to staff. The doctors and colleagues have all done their rounds, but this nurse has to mop up what happened during the day.
Many things are left undone after first shift because the orders haven’t come through, radiology hasn’t taken the patient, or the discharge paperwork wasn’t completed yet. In other words, second shift nurses have to jump into the middle.
This is also when the patients are the most active, and you may see family members when you work on this shift. That can be challenging if the family members want reports on their loved ones or are generally loud in the room.
Once the raucous nature of second shift settles down, it is time for a med pass again. Patients want to get to sleep, and they don’t want to wait until 10PM to do it.
That means that you have to get your meds passed, tuck your patients in, and rush to get your charting done. Once second shift hits the end, the pace can sometimes drop off.
Everyone thinks third shift is easy, but it is definitely not. It is a well-known fact that the elderly need to urinate at least three or four times per night.
Sometimes meds need to be passed during night shift, too, and it is very difficult to perform an assessment on a patient who is sleeping. They are just not interested in the fact that you have to listen to their COPD ridden lungs.
Because third shift is so “easy,” management often assigns clerical work to these nurses, such as checking the electronic chart for any missed or erroneous orders – because they have nothing to do.
Mornings on third shift are not easy, either. Some patients have to go onto procedures, and some are already awake, demanding breakfast.
Of course, first shift wonders what you did all night and can give you a hard time about not finishing everything. As with all shifts, knowing what it takes to get through the allotted time means that there can be peace and understanding on the unit as a whole.