Whether you're an expert in the specialty or a first-time travel nurse, the night shift can be intimidating. Add navigating a new hospital in an unfamiliar city and the stress can be amplified. Fortunately, many benefits make working the night shift a great option during a travel nursing assignment. Here are five perks that will put your mind at ease about working nights 一 and may even have you requesting this rewarding shift.
TRAVEL NURSES WORK INDEPENDENTLY
Travel nurses, by nature, enjoy working independently. The ability to quickly adapt and work autonomously is an essential quality for these healthcare heroes. In addition, having a positive attitude as you jump into a new and exciting role makes you a great asset.
As the evening winds down, the night shift becomes free from the hustle and bustle of daytime staff, including management. Working independently without interference from leadership is a welcomed experience. Although there may be fewer resources available during the evenings, there is also less drama. Many travel nurses relish the freedoms that the night shift offers.
DO TRAVEL NURSES EARN MORE MONEY AT NIGHT?
Depending on the assignment, many travel nurses can look forward to having bigger paychecks when working the night shift. An above-average salary and night shift differential, along with potentially tax-free money for housing, meals, and incidentals, make the night shift a lucrative option compared to the day shift.
You can also ask your HCTN recruiter about sign-on bonuses, overtime pay, 401K programs, and medical insurance. The financial incentives of working as a travel nurse are substantial, and potentially more profitable working the night shift.
THE NIGHT SHIFT IS A SLOWER PACE (SOMETIMES)
Although the emergency room and maternal health departments can be busy all hours of the night, many units experience a slower pace throughout the evening and overnight. Since there are fewer medications and procedures to manage, night nurses have more time to spend with patients who need extra attention. Once folks are tucked into bed, however, you may enjoy a low-key atmosphere with less stress.
Focusing on self-care during these slower night shifts is an excellent way to pass the time. For example, getting up hourly to move your body, eating small protein-packed meals, and concentrating on fluid intake can increase general well-being. In addition, if you find sunshine helpful for improving your mood, you can bring a small SAD lamp for use during your downtime.
ENJOY MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN AT NIGHT
You can also use this extra time to complete any competencies or training required by your hospital. Since travel nurses may have shorter hospital orientations compared to their permanent peers, getting organized and taking advantage of every available minute is helpful. Plus, the night shift provides a perfect opportunity to become more acquainted with your unit, workflow, and relevant policies. From locating supplies to learning the electronic medical record, the extra time afforded by working the night shift is invaluable.
TRAVEL NURSES FIND COMRADERY ON THE NIGHT SHIFT
Forming new relationships with your co-workers is also a perk of the slow-paced midnight hours. Night shift nurses are a tight-knit group as they often have time to share stories, experiences, and advice. However, during busier evenings, they band together and find the resources to provide excellent patient care. The collaboration formed between these nighttime teammates is unique compared to any other shift. Unlike their daytime peers, night nurses have a special connection envied by many.
These newfound relationships may also lend firsthand knowledge about the top places to visit in your desired location. Although your HCTN recruiter is knowledgeable about your destination, the friendships you forge working the night shift as a travel nurse will also provide companionship for your explorations.
Challenges of Night Shift Nursing
While there are many perks to working the night shift as a travel nurse, there are some challenges as well. Challenges while at work, such as fewer resources and availability of healthcare providers than during the day shift, can be challenging for patient care. However, most healthcare facilities understand and have resources and protocols to work around these challenges. Some personal challenges can include difficulty sleeping, getting enough rest, and unavailability to participate in activities during the day, which can affect your mental and physical health.
6 Tips for Surviving the Night Shift as a Travel Nurse
Even with its challenges, many nurses still choose to work the night shift. Let’s review a few ideas for how night shift travel nurses survive their night shift assignments below.
Set and Stick to a Schedule
Many night shift nurses have strict schedules, and this is especially true when it comes to their sleep schedule. Typically, night shift workers find it easy to fall asleep. It’s staying asleep and getting at least seven hours of sleep that’s the issue. If you’re struggling with either, try blackout curtains or a new sleep schedule. Our internal clocks want us to stay awake when it’s light outside, so try sleeping when you first get home. If you wake up during the middle of the day, try taking a nap in the late afternoon to the early evening before your shift begins. This way you will feel refreshed right before work.
Make Friends on your Night Shift
Making friends on your shift can help you stay awake and make time go by faster. They can help you with patient baths or changing sheets, which usually require two people. Since they also have the same schedule, you can also hang out with them outside of work if you wish.
Keep Your Brain Alert While Working
It’s important to keep your brain alert while working. If you’re feeling tired, try walking around the unit or tidying the nurses' station or supply room to keep you occupied. If you usually sit to complete charting, try standing instead.
Watch your Health
If you’re a travel nurse working the night shift, remember you need to watch your health too. This includes your physical and mental health. Oftentimes, the stress of working as a nurse can cause health problems, such as high blood pressure. Make sure you are checking in with yourself and attending scheduled doctor appointments and yearly physicals.
Fuel Your Body with Nutritious Foods
Healthcare travelers that work nights sometimes have difficulty eating healthy, which can lead to weight gain. If you work several hours or night shifts in a row, consider prepping your meals several days in advance.
Don’t Drink Too Much Caffeine
Drinking caffeinated beverages can help you stay awake during your shift. However, try to not consume too much caffeine because it may interfere with your sleep. Stop caffeine intake three to four hours before the end of your shift.
Working the night shift as a travel nurse has many perks but also poses some challenges. Try some of these tips today!
Serenity Mirabito MSN, RN, OCN is a published health and wellness writer. Her extensive nursing knowledge and experience allow her to write reliable content for every audience.