Whether you’ve worked the night shift before or this is your first time, preparing for night shift nursing can leave you feeling overwhelmed and maybe even a little anxious. 

Now you’re searching for how you can prepare for the night shift to avoid burnout. 

We’re happy to tell you that you’ve come to the right place. 

In this guide we provide the pros and cons of night shift travel nursing, how to prepare for your new schedule, and what you can do to survive those long nights. Keep reading to learn more. 



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Travel Nurses and the Night Shift

As a nurse, you probably have worked the night shift at some point in your career — or you likely will. 

If you have worked the night shift, you already know that being a night shift nurse is no small task. Although many nurses who work this schedule often prefer it, there are many challenges that come with working the night shift. 

Deciding whether a night shift travel nurse contract is right for you can be a hard decision. We recommend that before you sign a contract, you start by weighing the pros and cons. 

Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing on the Night Shift

There are many pros and cons of travel nursing on the night shift, many of which depend on your personal preferences. As a staffing agency that’s worked with nurses on all shifts, we’ve learned the pros and cons of the night shift. 

Here are some of the benefits of travel nursing on the night shift: 

  • Most of your patients are usually sleeping. If you don’t enjoy the hustle and bustle of day shift nursing, the slower pace of the night shift may be ideal. 
  • Because night shift hours are less desirable for many, night shift nurses generally get paid more than day shift nurses — even as a travel nurse.
  • You’ll have time to run errands, schedule appointments, and spend daytime hours doing things you need to do without requesting time off. 
  • One of the reasons you may have become a travel nurse is to explore different places. As a night shift travel nurse, you’ll have the option to explore during daytime hours.

There are some pitfalls to night shift nursing, like:

  • Because the night shift isn’t the preferred shift by many, you may find yourself working with less experienced staff members.
  • Unlike when working day shift, working as a night shift nurse may mean that you have to stay after your shift for any required meetings or in-services. 
  • Night shift nursing requires extra effort to remain connected with loved ones. As a travel nurse, you may be used to the demands of your job and the strain it can put on your relationships. Add in being asleep while the rest of your world is awake and you may feel as though you are missing out on important moments. 


prepare for night shift nursing


4 Tips on How to Prepare for Night Shift Nursing as a Travel Nurse

If you choose to travel nurse on the night shift, it can be a difficult transition from working day shift or even mid shift.

To provide the best care for your patients, you must prepare before starting your new shift. Without proper preparation, you may find yourself being burned out and miserable your first few weeks.

If you’ve never worked the night shift, or it’s been a while since your last time, knowing how to prepare for night shift nursing is vital to properly care for your patients as well as yourself. 

But knowing what to do to prepare for night shift nursing can feel overwhelming, which is why we’re offering our top preparation tips. 

#1: Create a Sleep Schedule and Stick With It

Creating a routine is one of the best ways to prepare for night shift nursing. This involves sticking to a sleep schedule that works for your new shift. 

Sleep experts say that adults require at least seven to nine hours of sleep for optimal brain function each day.  

But it isn’t just about the amount of sleep you get; it’s about the quality of sleep which is why creating a sleep schedule and a “nightly” routine during the day is essential.

To ensure you’re getting enough sleep (and quality sleep), stick to your normal bedtime routine. If you typically… 

  • Take a shower
  • Brush your teeth
  • Read a book 
  • Meditate
  • Etc. 

… before bed, continue to do those activities before you go to sleep in the morning. No matter what shift you’re working, help your brain wind down and understand that it is time to sleep by committing to your routine.  

Continue following your new sleep schedule whenever possible. If you’re working three twelve hour shifts a week, try to maintain your sleep schedule even on the days you’re off. 

Sticking to your schedule plays a role in our next tip for preparing for night shift nursing, too. 

#2: Learn to Adjust to Your Circadian Rhythm 

Adjusting your circadian rhythm is essential to maintaining alertness, getting quality sleep, and sustaining a routine while working as a night shift nurse. 

Your circadian rhythm is an internal clock that is constantly running. It cycles between alertness and sleepiness. Adjusting your circadian rhythm involves:

  • Maintaining a sleep-wake schedule — Your circadian rhythm thrives on consistency. 
  • Adjusting meal times — Studies have shown that delaying or altering the times that you eat and when you’re hungry can help adjust your circadian rhythm.
  • Investing in blackout curtains (or other ways to maintain darkness during the day) — Preventing the sunlight from entering your room during the day can help you trick your brain into thinking it is time to sleep.




#3: Plan Meals and Stock Up on Healthy Snacks

Prepare for night shift nursing by stocking up on healthy snacks and planning meals that fuel your body to help keep yourself awake and alert. 

Avoid foods high in sugar and carbohydrates, which cause your blood sugar to spike — due to a surge in insulin — and drop quickly. Instead of leaving you feeling fueled and energized, you may be left feeling tired, cranky, and hungry shortly after eating. 

To keep your energy levels high throughout the night, consider consuming several small meals instead of one large, heavy meal. 

Healthier foods to pack for your shift might include: 

  • Jerky
  • Cheese
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits

Once your shift has ended, consume a reasonable sized breakfast to avoid waking up hungry in the middle of your daytime sleep.  

#4: Plan for Helping Your Partner or Housemates Adjust to Your New Schedule

Preparing for night shift nursing may involve more than just preparing yourself. If you live with roommates or your family members, it is important that they understand the demands of working the night shift. 

Be transparent with them. Talk about what changes come with your night shift schedule, how you can support each other, and even ways to remain connected if you’re working opposite shifts. 


how to survive night shift as a nurse


Now That You Know How to Prepare for Night Shift Nursing, Here Are 6 Additional Tips on How to Survive Night Shifts as a Nurse 

You’re fully prepared to start your night shift nursing assignment. Still, all you can think about are those long nights and if you’re going to be able to function. 

Don’t fret. 

We have tips to help you survive as a night shift travel nurse, even after you’ve done all you can to prepare yourself.

#1: Find Ways to Stay Alert

Night shift nursing generally has more downtime than daytime nursing. Patients are typically preparing for bed, if not already sleeping, by the time you arrive for your shift. 

Your patients will still need care throughout the night, though. No matter how quiet it may be, being ready to act is critical for you as a nurse. 

Help yourself stay alert by:

  • Taking walks around the facility
  • Stocking your carts and nursing station
  • Reading
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Doing word puzzles
  • Etc. 

#2: Watch Your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine may help you stay alert and refreshed throughout your shift, but be careful not to drink too much. Overdoing caffeinated beverages — like tea, coffee, or soda — can make it more difficult to fall asleep after your shift. 

Consider avoiding caffeine three to four hours before you’re off the clock and staying within the recommended limit of 400 milligrams or less per day

#3: Stay Hydrated

Proper hydration plays a key role in staying alert and focused during the night shift. 

Did you know that even mild dehydration can have significant impacts on your cognitive abilities?

Recent studies have found that mild dehydration may influence: 

  • Poor concentration
  • Increased anxiety levels
  • Increased reaction time; and even
  • Short-term memory problems 

It can be easy to forget to hydrate and replenish your electrolytes when you aren’t running around as you would on dayshift.

To combat dehydration on the job, consider carrying a water bottle with the number of ounces you should be drinking on your shift clearly labeled. 

#4: Adjust Personal Appointments to Fit Within Your New Schedule 

Your new night shift schedule may feel a little overwhelming at first, especially as you begin adjusting your errands and appointments. 

To make it easier, pay attention to the amount of time you need to ensure you’re getting enough rest after work. 

Adjust your appointments to meet your needs. 

If scheduling an appointment later in the day disrupts the amount of sleep you need to function optimally, consider scheduling appointments first thing in the morning instead. 

#5: Stay Safe

Adjusting to the night shift can be extremely challenging for some nurses, especially initially. If you are concerned that you are too tired to properly care for patients or get home safely after, talk with your management team. 

Never put your safety or the safety of others at risk because of being too tired. 

#6: Watch Your Health

Maintaining your health is essential no matter what shift you work, but as a night shift nurse you are at higher risk for health problems — especially if you aren’t getting enough sleep. 

  • Blood pressure
  • Hormone regulation; and
  • Immune responses 

… are just a few of the body functions that can be affected due to not getting enough sleep.

Although you may need to get creative, staying active and maintaining proper nutrition are vital to maintaining your health. Get to know your co-workers on the night shift to find a workout buddy for later in the afternoon. 

If you begin to notice any negative changes in your health, don’t be afraid to talk with your physician. 


how to adjust to night shift nurses


Interested in Night Shift Nursing as a Travel Nurse? Trusted Nurse Staffing Can Help

Ready to start your journey as a travel nurse

Trusted Nurse Staffing offers contracts for all shifts all across the United States.

Let us help you pursue your passions and hit the road with a career in night shift nursing as a travel nurse. 

At Trusted Nurse Staffing, our recruiters and staff are here to help you meet your needs. 

To get started, create a free travel nursing profile, browse the currently available contracts, and contact our recruiters when you find one you believe is a match!