Both shifts are pros and cons. The day shift is better for the body clock, whereas, night shift brings financial reward and a slower pace work environment so you learn the career. Depending on where you are with life you may choose one over the other and change shifts in the future based on your family needs.
Quality of sleep
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, how sleep gets the effects of different shifts. Researchers from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States analyzed data from 883 subjects to investigate the relationship between night shift work and sleep quality.
Sleep quality was found to be low among night shift workers. Sleep quality was positively correlated with HbA1c, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and inversely correlated with DHEA levels. Sleep quality was highly correlated with inflammatory markers and inversely correlated with antioxidant markers.
The conclusion of quality of life and sleep is that working nights disrupt your circadian rhythm, causing negative changes in metabolic, inflammatory, neuroendocrine, and antioxidant markers.
Quality of sleep is also a factor because when you work days there is no worrying that the neighbor’s dog or the lawnmower might wake you up during the night. Working nights you also have to cycle your sleep. After working 3 shifts in a row should I sleep 4 hours, wake up, run some errands and then go to sleep early to “reset”.
Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD)
Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD) is referred to as an avoidable, chronic, long-term health condition.
- Difficulty concentrating and headaches
- Irritability leading to stress and issues within personal and professional relationships
- Lack of energy, drive and decreased productivity
- Insomnia or the inability to fall asleep when you need to
- Inability to make quick decisions leading to safety concerns
Noise & Pace
Depending on the facility, the day shift can be rather intense compared to nights. There are generally more meds and procedures during the day. Days can be noisy with constant new faces rounding on your patient, the constant influx of new orders, so your pace on days will always change. During day shifts, meals are distributed to patient’s rooms three times a day and you need to cover Accu check and tailor it to your patient’s ability to do activities of daily living.
Working night shifts we feel like you can gauge how your shifts will play out. If you are a new graduate nurse, working nights gives you time to think. The quieter environment and slower pace of the night shift can allow for more time to think, plan, and sort out one’s life. The slower pace as a night shift nurse, you tend to watch the clock and make your shift seem endless, especially when you’re already tired.
While the day shift offers opportunities to be mentored, working the night shift is slower, nurses and doctors are able to discuss cases together. During the day, there is so much happening that often they’re just handling the most important patient care tasks.
No matter what hospital we have traveled to, teamwork was always great but night shifts seem to have a stronger bond. You don’t have as many resources at night so you have more opportunity to interact with your fellow nurses, creating stronger relationships.
During the day shift, you have more opportunities to connect with patients and their families. That relationship-building can be important, and only the day nurse has the chance to truly do that work.
Learning vs Autonomy
When it comes down to learning the medical field, working days have more opportunities. With surgeons, physicians, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists roaming the halls, you tend to have more conversations, and asking great questions can really help a nurse to gain and sharpen clinical knowledge.
Days have more learning opportunities but working nights has greater autonomy, experience is a great teacher. Working nights you tend to rely less on doctors and try to troubleshoot situations. Who wants to wake up the doctor at 3 am? Not me, so we tend to use up all resources and get creative with nursing before we make that call.
Night shift salary and differentials can be significantly higher than days, and the extra earnings can really add up. That extra four or five dollars an hour really adds up after 1,872 hours a year working as a nurse (3 12’s). Some nurses have a hard time giving up nights for this reason alone.
Patient and families
This is a double-edged sword because it can be mentally taxing interacting with patients’ families but it also can be the most rewarding experience. Families and visitors can often make your shift much more difficult. It all depends on the personality that you have. Do you love interacting with families? If you’re trying to get grounded in nursing, working night shifts is the better choice because during these times visiting hours are usually over by 9 PM.
Working nights means less connection with patients who are often asleep most of the night and you have fewer opportunities to connect, talk, educate, and form a nurse-patient bond.
Your family and personal time
Peter and I don’t have any kids but we talked to tons of nurses, most say working nights is easier for their family and kids. If you work from 7 am to 7 pm, you need to leave the house before the kids are barely awake and you miss the opportunity to be present for preparing for their school day. You also don’t get off of work until well after they get home, so you miss out on after-school time as well.
With personal time, we think both shits are created equal. Some nurses working nights claim they need a whole day to recharge, whereas we pick up where we left off in our personal life. If you are a person that cherishes routines and a normal schedule, days are better.