Confessions of a Night Shift Nurse

Woke up this morning at 8:30am to no alarm, stayed in bed until about 11am and then realized, “What the hell am I doing?” This is so unlike me. I used to claim to be a morning person, up at the crack of dawn with my spark in hand ready to take on the world. Not anymore I’m not.

My head hurts today. I can’t find my phone in the covers. My socks don’t match, but who am I kidding when do they ever? I find the energy to make myself get up, brush my teeth, make a shake, grab the dogs, and stumble outside.

Opening the door to the outside today seems like I’m entering the gates of heaven. The world is so bright, the dogs are pulling me hard to get to the park, and here I am, again, stumbling to keep up. Sometimes when I work long stretches in a row, I look in the mirror and see this person with dark circles and messy hair staring back at me. I almost don’t even recognize myself.

Be a nurse, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.

I didn’t even work last night, or even the night before. I worked this past weekend, 4 nights in a row. When I say night shift puts you in a funk, I mean it. The last night I worked was Sunday night, off for 2 days, back tonight. If you think it’s possible to become a functioning human again from 4 days of night shift, you are so wrong. Unfortunately in the nursing world, working night shift is something most every newly graduated nurse gets to experience. Almost like a “right of passage.”

So let’s talk about night shift.

  • You waste your days sleeping so that you can wake up at 4pm to get ready for your day.
  • You sit in traffic both ways to get to work.
  • You especially love when people complain about being tired because well, you only worked all night and you’re tired all the time.
  • You don’t care if it’s Friday when you’re scheduled for that weekend.
  • You say good morning when it’s 7pm and goodnight when it’s 7am.
  • You are hungry at 4 am and often eat all night anyways just because you’re bored.
  • You miss so many fun social events because you can’t go to work and enjoy a night out.
  • You are a zombie during the day and most highly functioning at night.
  • Caffeine is your new best friend.
  • You lose track of what day it is because in 1 shift you work 1 day into the next.
  • You eat breakfast when other “normal” people are eating dinner.
  • You look forward to the next time you see your bed.
  • Did I mention your tired all the time??

Sounds fun doesn’t it?

And even with all that being said, night shift is most definitely my favorite. I know what you’re thinking.. But how?? I literally just told you some pretty dreadful things about it, and somehow I still like it? When I say I get to work with the most incredible people, I mean it. Granted, the day shift staff where I work is awesome too, but there’s just something about being with people in the wee hours of the morning that makes the people on night shift like a family.

I have learned so much about myself during these past few months since I’ve been on nights and there is still so much I feel like I have to learn.

For starters, I know the very, very latest I can wake up before it makes me late. I also now know it takes me exactly 38 minutes to get to work or come home on the weekends and over an 1.5 during the week. Meal prepping is an essential to keeping my eating in check because otherwise you can catch me loading up on graham crackers or powerade until the cafteria opens at 11pm. I’ve learned that I have to schedule my days or literally nothing gets accomplished. I enjoy more than a few “me days” where I lay on the couch or in bed and do absolutely nothing. I may or may not be the worst text-backer because when I finally see your text it’s usually too late to respond and I’ll more than likely wake you up. I’ve mastered the art of napping. Anytime. Anywhere. You find what works to help you sleep and for me it’s sleepworks. On my nights off when I actually need to fall asleep at a decent time it’s necessary to help me fall and stay asleep. I’m a damn good cook. Okay maybe only thanks to prepped meals from HelloFresh and my meal replacement shakes. But really, being a newlywed on night shift allows me to cook meals for my husband as I prep my own for the night..something I know he has to appreciate. I’ve learned to take advantage of the time I have with your family. Again with the newlyweds..Some stretches of work I only get to see my husband for what seems like a minute before I’m out the door, but that minute is the best of my whole day. I’m literally so horrible at my chores. When I work a few days in a row, I go for days on end piling up dishes, laundry, and leave my things all over our apartment. However, while my days off may consist of sleeping all day I am now the most effective at night.

All that to say, it’s an experience of a lifetime. It’s fun. It may not last long because maybe another day shift opens and I’ll get to leave the world of nights, but people always tell me that they enjoyed working nights because of the friendships and memories they have made. It’s makes things in your life different.  You may have a work schedule, but your life schedule changes drastically because while some days you are awake, some you are sleeping. It’s challenging. Emotionally, physically, mentally. I have days where I question everything about myself, my faith, my relationships, who I am. I think sometimes that just comes along with the exhaustion of being a nurse and the things that we see. It’s exhausting. You work stretched of days in a row. You may work one night and then run to catch a flight or go spend the next day tailgating. But most of all, it’s rewarding. There are miracles that happen every single night, things we just can’t even begin to understand or explain them. And when you’re driving home, thinking about your shift and how it went, you realize if you can make it throught whatever hell that night brought, you can make it through anything.



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