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Six Tips For Nurses Working The Graveyard Shift

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Healthcare seems to be an exciting career option for many people. But professional life can be a completely different picture. Working in the field is daunting and daring work. Every day includes a packed schedule, extensive workload, and non-subsiding pressure.

On top of that, the restlessness becomes unmanageable if workers get a couple of graveyard shifts over a week. The graveyard shift extends between midnight till early morning. It is particularly challenging because, at this time, the human body craves rest. The body carries out a series of essential processes to repair cells and replenish energy. Workers with night shifts experience disturbance in their biological clock, which leads to several micro-level changes in their bodies.

So as a night shift nurse, you need to manage your routine properly. Stress and restlessness can increase the likelihood of making errors and jeopardizing patients’ well-being. Listed below are some tips that might come in handy while working the graveyard shift.

  • Manage schedule and tasks as per importance

No one has the magical powers to sort out everything instantly. But if nursing professionals practice time management skills, they can manage their workload without exhaustion. For example, if you want to use the light night schedule to become a family nurse practitioner, consider enrolling in an online program instead of going the traditional route. A flexible online msn-fnp program will help you manage your time better while juggling academic and professional responsibilities.

Similarly, use planners, timers, and alarms, to manage all your tasks in an organized manner. Do important tasks first and leave less important ones for later. Use this tactic to plan your shifts, days, and even weeks. Staying organized will prevent burnout.

  • Acquire family support

Responsibilities can be tiring and consuming, especially when balancing work and life. Since nurses cannot just switch between due job responsibilities, they should find ways to make work doable and enjoyable. More worrying is that healthcare professionals do not share their struggles with their families and keep fighting alone. They think that their families either cannot comprehend their challenges or help them resolve anything. Sharing and discussion would worry them uselessly.

However, a family does not need medical-level knowledge to help you out. Thus if you run out of energy and feel vulnerable, communicate to your loved ones. Their relying shoulder, a listening ear, and embrace can revitalize your dwindling stamina readily. You can also ask them to rend errands for you during the day while you catch your sleep.

  • Coordinate with fellow workers to manage responsibilities

No doubt, it’s difficult to excel when working in silos in a healthcare setting. It is not easy to attend to several patients, keep their records, and administer customized treatments without maintaining coordination. The situation is more challenging during night shifts, given the lack of available staff and specialists. In such cases, patients in the emergency and life-support units can destabilize, leading to emergencies.

Thus coordination is crucial to go through the graveyard shifts even with limited staff members. It will help you utilize skills and resources and minimize unanticipated patient harm. You can also share the workload and get needed rest while serving patients uninterruptedly. This way, they will not suffer from fatigue.

  • Do not compromise on your sleep

As mentioned earlier, the human body is wired to work during the day and sleep at night. This is why it’s normal for nurses working in the graveyard shift to feel sleepy. Plus, sleeping patients adds makes one feel even more drowsy. Drowsiness can lead to fatal errors at night. So it’s best to get enough sleep when you go back home.

Sleeping during the day can be a unique challenge by itself. Too many distractions during the daytime for one to get proper shut-eye. Too much light as well. So, ensure you create an environment that is conducive to good sleep. Make your room dark, use noise-canceling earplugs, and keep your phone on DND. You must get at least six to eight hours of sleep to stay awake throughout the following night shift.

  • Consume healthy and light food

Compared to daytime shifts, night shifts do not require extensive work and unending active complaints from patients. Doctors deal with most of the issues of patients during the daytime, leaving only monitoring duties to nurses. They also prevent scheduling complex medical procedures during the nighttime to minimize mishaps. Thus the assisting staff is mainly required to stay vigilant and ensure patients remain stable in doctors’ absence. It means nurses do not need to prepare for a battlefield-like situation and avoid consuming heavy meals or junk foods during late hours.

It means consuming a light meal enriched with fresh vitamins and plant protein is a healthier alternative for graveyard shifts. A healthy meal will prevent issues like indigestion, bloating, and nausea while you stay up at irregular hours of the day. Avoid too much sugar since it can make you drowsy.

  • Heed to the signs of well-being irregularities

All work becomes a nuisance in healthcare if workers are unwell. It is routine practice, not a day that nurses can get by without impacting their health. Serving in this field exposes them to countless irregularities, which become the norm over time. It is also why they are prone to several psychological and physical health issues. Their lack of attention to health-deteriorating symptoms as mere as stress leads to the development of chronic diseases, such as depression.

As a result, their health conditions keep them occupied even when patients need their attentiveness. Thus if you intend to succeed in this field, do not overlook the significance of planning your lifestyle. It means recognizing your bodily and psychological needs is as necessary as catering to patients. If needed, seek relaxation from the co-workers and administration and do not put off health indications only to let them get worse later on.


No doubt, performing night shift duties is challenging for nurses. But better planning is crucial to minimizing mishaps during the graveyard shift. So, follow the tips mentioned above and make work more manageable during the wee hours of the night. You’ll be able to take better care of patients and yourself.

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