Day or Night Shift: Pros and Cons for Your Nursing Career


Day or Night Shift: Pros and Cons for Your Nursing Career

By Erin Wallace, contributor

RNs just starting out in their nursing career have a fundamental and important decision to make: should they work during the day or overnight? 

If you're still weighing your options on whether to go with day shift or night shift nursing, keep reading to learn some tips from experts on the pros and cons of each shift.


3 Advantages of Day Shift Nursing

1. More activity

Day shift nursing, by nature, is more active. Patients are awake, phones are ringing, more call light bells are going off and families are visiting patients. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle, then the day shift may be right for you. On the other hand, if you're bothered by noise or find it makes it difficult for you to concentrate, then you may want to consider the night shift, which tends to be quieter.

Keep in mind that this is all relative — some units are going to be busy no matter what time of day or night it is.

2. Fits in with a day-to-day lifestyle

Working the night shift can sometimes have a negative impact on a nurse's social day life, but if you work the day shift, you can still participate in evening or weekend activities with friends and family, just as most individuals do after work.

3. You can maintain an ordinary sleep schedule

Working the night shift completely goes against your body's natural wake/sleep pattern, which can lead to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can be a serious problem for night shift nurses, notes Caleb Backe, a Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics

“Research indicates that a significant lack of sleep has a profound impact on decision-making skills, especially during moments of uncertainty and pressure.” Day shift nurses don't have to worry about this issue, aside from individualized sleep deprivation problems they may experience.

3 Advantages of Night Shift Nursing

1. Night shift nursing usually earns you a higher salary

This is probably the biggest advantage of working the night shift during your nursing career. Many hospitals offer shift differentials at hourly rates to help supplement a nurse's income in return for working night shifts.

According to PayScale, the average hourly rate for an RN working the day shift is between $22.54 - $40.69/hour, depending on geographical location, experience level, and medical facility. A night nurse, on the other hand, can expect to make up to $41.03/hour, which is slightly higher. The added night shift differential varies by facility type, but it can make a big difference over long-term periods.

2. Increased camaraderie

Many nurses report feeling a sense of teamwork and togetherness when they work the night shift. According to Rachel Johnson, a Seattle-area RN, “there's something about working nights that turns a regular group of nurses into a hard working, fun loving unbreakable team that would do just about anything for one another.”

Mary Jean Wallace, RN, who has worked at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, MA for over 30 years as a night shift nurse, enjoys the autonomy the position provides. “Not as many doctors are around overnight, so a lot of assessment and decision-making in regards to patient care is left up to me, and I enjoy that part of the job.”

3. Less hectic shifts

Because patients are sleeping during the night, the night shift is usually quieter in general. While some departments - like the ER or L&D - are unpredictable and can be full of activity around the clock, most of the other departments are not. While there aren't any certainties in nursing, the night shift tends to have more quiet moments than the day shift. 

Whichever type of shift you ultimately choose, day or night shift nursing, make sure it's one that matches your lifestyle and individual preferences, so you can ensure your nursing career will grow and succeed.

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