How to survive your first overnight shift.


Whether you are a student who got placed doing an overnight shift for clinical or a new graduate who obtained a job doing overnights on a unit, this advice will help prepare you from transitioning to a grave-yard shift. 

For most people, staying up overnight (on your feet) is no easy task. Maybe you’re worried about staying awake or having enough energy to make it through the night. Here is what I suggest, based off of my first over night experience, that will successfully get you through the night:

The night before your shift, set an alarm to wake up at 5:30 A.M. Get up, make some coffee, tea, protein shake, read a book, go to the gym, do something to keep you from falling asleep. The point here is to have you get tired enough to be able to nap for a few hours come 12-1 P.M.

From 12-1 P.M you should take a nap for 2-4 hours so you wake up feeling energized and ready to tackle your first night shift. When you wake up, make sure you eat a nice big dinner to hold you over until later that night. Pack some snacks, waters, gum, another meal or whatever you enjoy (The cafeteria may not be opened or may only open for an hour in the middle of the night). Also, make sure you are wearing a nice pair of comfortable shoes. Having an uncomfortable pair of shoes will make your 12 hour shift feel like an eternity. For coffee or tea drinkers, I would stop caffeinating around 3 A.M so when you get home you are not wide awake in bed.

If you are working another night shift the next day, make sure you get home, shower, set your alarm and get a good 6-8 hours (If possible) of sleep, before you wake up and do it again. After your string of shifts, to get back on a day schedule, set your alarm for 12-1 P.M. so you can slowly get back into going to sleep at night. This is exactly what helped me get through my first overnight experience and I am hoping that it can help some of you who are stressing about transitioning into a nocturnal nurse!


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