Day Shift or Night Shift? What’s the Difference?

When considering options for a travel nursing position, there are many things to take into account. Where do you want to work? Which hospitals are hiring? What unit/department would you like to be in? Another thing to think about is whether you’d like to work the day shift or night shift. Here are some things to think about when making your decision.

The Day Shift

Are you a morning person? While hospitals can vary, the typical day shift in nursing begins between 6:30 and 7 a.m. During this time, all hospital departments are usually fully staffed and open for business. Hospital administration and managers are generally present and visiting hours commonly in full swing by 9 a.m.

 What does this mean for the day shift nurse?

  • Frequent interruptions from visiting family members and friends asking questions
  • Doctors writing new orders
  • PT, OT, speech therapy, and research all trying to have a few moments with your patient
  • If it’s a teaching hospital, med students and nursing students will be in to see your patients
  • Fewer patients being transferred in and out of different units for tests and surgeries
  • Patients being admitted and discharged

Potential advantages of the day shift

  • The day shift tends to be fast paced
  • A fully staffed hospital means there are a lot more hands available to help when needed
  • The majority of scheduled, non-emergent procedures occur during the day providing a lot of opportunity for additional skill development.

Job considerations aside, for many, the day shift provides the easiest path to working as a nurse.

Do you have a family? Balancing schedules is a bit easier when working the day shift.

The Night Shift

Are you a night owl? A typical night shift begins between 6:30 and 7 p.m. During this time, several departments move to minimal staffing, while other departments, such as outpatient surgery, often close altogether. Fewer administrators, managers, and doctors are present and visiting hours generally come to an end.

What does this mean for a night shift nurse?

  • Minimal staffing requires nurses working this shift to be more autonomous, ready for anything
  • Less staff may require managing a larger number of patients
  • Night nurses still need to perform all needed patient care. This often means waking sleeping patients which doesn’t always result in happy patients.

Potential advantages of the night shift

  • Higher pay
  • With visiting hours coming to an end, night nurses have fewer interruptions
  • Less patient transfers in and out of units for tests and surgeries.
  • Fewer new orders are written and no discharges
  • Fewer nurses on duty mean more opportunities to perform and perfect nursing assessments and skills.

There are personal factors to consider when it comes to choosing the night shift. Sleeping during the day can take some getting used to. It can also be very difficult to switch back to a “normal” schedule on your off days, making it more challenging to balance work and personal commitments.

There’s a lot to consider as you search for the position that is right for you. Much will depend on the hospital, location, and specialty you choose.  Many TaleMed nurses have worked both at various points in their career and have many valuable insights.

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