Night Shifts: Tips for Surviving Night Shifts as a Travel Nurse

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By Kevin Devoto

September 9, 2022

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Surviving Night Shifts as a Travel Nurse

Being a nurse is challenging. With the worldwide nursing shortage, many professionals have turned to travel nursing for a bigger paycheck and increased work flexibility. While there are substantial benefits to travel nursing, it can be exhausting. Night shifts that were already hard can feel almost impossible for many nurses. If you’re a travel nurse scheduled for a midnight rotation, here are some tips to make it easier. 

Stay Nourished

First, you can make your overnight shifts easier by staying nourished. Food is fuel, and your body will need enough to make it overnight. Whether working in the emergency room or a nursing home, you need a good nutrition plan. Don’t leave your temporary housing without a meal packed or a plan to get one. If your body is low on cellular energy, you’ll get sleepy easier, and the hours will stretch. Something as simple as keeping granola bars or protein cookies in your scrub pockets will keep you nourished and awake throughout the night.

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If you don’t have the time to grab food, protein shakes, or supplement smoothies will be your best friends. These drinks give you the nutrients your body needs on the go, allowing you to make the most of your time. While a protein shake isn’t an optimal replacement for food, it’s better than skipping meals. Nutrition systems like Thrive include caffeine in their products, which gives you a boost throughout your shift. Thrive reviews are generally positive, with many people seeing an increase in long-lasting energy during their workday. By improving your nutrition, you can make your night shift easier. 

Curate a Sleep Schedule

The second way to make your night shifts easier is by curating a sleep schedule. When your shift ends, it can be tempting to go hang out with work friends or try to get housework done. While there’s nothing wrong with either of those things, having a sleep schedule is vital to your health as a night shift nurse. If you can, try to head for bed as soon as you can following your shift. Your off-duty tasks will still be there when you wake up, but you can’t function at work without proper rest. 

One crucial part of setting a sleep schedule is having a bedtime routine. It can be hard to fall asleep when you’re adjusting your circadian rhythm to a nocturnal schedule. Having a routine before bed can help make winding down after work easier. For instance, drinking the same cup of tea, taking a shower, or listening to white noise every day before bed will help cue your brain that it’s time to sleep. If you know you have difficulty falling asleep after work, try creating a bedtime routine along with your sleep schedule. 

Occupy Your Brain

The third way you can make your night shifts easier is by occupying your brain. Depending on your placement, you may have periods where you have little to no activity during the night. During these slow times, it’s easy to get so relaxed that you start falling asleep. Of course, you can’t exactly take a nap on the clock. Rather than getting in trouble, do things during your shift to keep your mind busy. 

If you’re allowed to use your phone during slow times, play a game that keeps you thinking or listen to a podcast while you do your routine charting. For placements with stricter phone rules, bring a sudoku or crossword book with you to work. Simple additions like these can keep your brain working so you don’t get too sleepy during your shift.

While night shifts will always be challenging, these tips can make them easier. You can survive your midnight shifts by taking care of your body as much as you care for your patients.

Our job board is a great place to search for your next travel nurse assignment. We have you covered with our housing page if housing is an issue. You can search for what you are looking for.

If you are a new travel nurse or looking into becoming a travel nurse:

Travel Nurse Guide: Step-by-Step (now offered in a PDF Downloadable version!)

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