A (night) in the life of a night shift nurse


A few months ago, Nurse Eye Roll posted a post entitled A Day in the Life of a Nurse (all credit for this idea goes to her). Without further ado, here is the flip side of that, what happens in the wee hours of the night when day shift is off the clock, our patients are all “asleep”, and it’s always 7am somewhere.

Dedicated to all of you hard working night shift nurses who are reading this on your smart phones right now while trying to pass the time.

Wake up, wide awake, look at the clock, and realize it’s only 2pm

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Trying to go back to sleep… trying to go back to sleep…. trying to go back to sleep

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When I hear my neighbors kids getting off the bus, and the dog barking, and LAWNMOWERS.

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New plan for surviving tonight: COFFEE POP REDBULL

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About the time my alarm was set to go off

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Walk out my front door

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Get to work and discover I have three admissions, a discharge, and a transfer waiting for me, and we’re short-staffed

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Long-winded coworker takes half an hour to give report on three patients

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Okay day shift. You can go home now. 

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Going around, quickly meeting my patients, and asking if they need anything, which turns into thirty minutes of listening to a patient’s entire life story

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Discovering the previous nurse waited until right before shift change to give the Kayexelate and Milk of Mag cocktail ordered at 4pm 

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When my most time-consuming patient is watching that TV show that I was really upset about having to miss tonight

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Patient’s family comes to find me because my patient is coughing

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and because they think they have a fever

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and because they think they have Ebola

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One patient wants pain medication, another needs to be changed, a third one has a SBP in the 70’s, a family member is on the phone and I have to pee

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Oh, and you’re getting another admission

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Passing meds, handing out apple juices, driving my computer around like a boss and saving the world 

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Finally finish my med pass and assessments. Now it’s time to sit down and do some uninterrupted charting

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When I am FINALLY sitting down and my IV starts beeping

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Finish charting an entire assessment, only to realize I forgot tonight is scheduled system maintenance and the computer system went offline before I had a chance to save it.

seriously

Seriously.

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When my H&H comes back and I have a standing order to give blood if their hemoglobin is below 8… it’s 7.9

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It’s not even midnight yet?!?!

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Time for lunch break, dinner break, or whatever-I’m-supposed-to-call-my-middle-of-the-night-meal break

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Realize I left my lunchbox on the kitchen counter, it’s too late to call someone to bring me food, and the cafeteria just closed. So now, dinner is graham crackers and applesauce

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Ask my coworker to help me change my patient and they let one rip as we roll them

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Nope. Not just a fart after all

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When I tell my patient I’ll bring them a sleeping pill… then I realize there’s not one ordered

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Then I realize there’s not a hospitalist on their case

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So, have to call the surgeon for an order and get yelled at for waking him up

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I can’t give my patient an Ambien? Okay, that’s cool. What about a Restoril? No? I can’t even have a Benedryl? Really?

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Patient is finally asleep and I realize I left something in their room

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The time of the night when my “pleasantly confused” little old lady turns into the devil incarnate

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It must be 3am now

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Coworker misses their IV stick and calls me to try

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Accidentally wake up a grumpy patient while hanging their 4am Zosyn

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Home stretch… I’m awake… I’m awake… I’m awake

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5:30am. Time to wake everyone up for their Synthroid and Protonix, at which point they will also need to pee and want their Lortab

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Check a blood sugar and my patient doesn’t need coverage!

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Half an hour before report and my IVs all go bad and my patients all have to pee. again.

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Finally caught up and waiting for day shift to come

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Day shift shows up late and spends fifteen minutes chatting and fixing their coffee

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Oncoming nurse asks me 92830498234 irrelevant questions that I have no idea what the answer is and I also don’t care

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FINALLY GETTING OUT OF HERE

dead

I’M GONE

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DONE.

seep

(At least, until I have to go back in twelve hours) 

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117 thoughts on “A (night) in the life of a night shift nurse

  1. You all my be Great Nurses, Here they would let you lay in your own poop and blame Everyone else, while the watch TV

    Like

  2. Ruth says:

    I’ve been a night nurse’s aide, now known as a PCA – Patient Care Associate for 42 years – and this is the best post I’ve seen – “natural light- get if off! get if off!” – roflmao!
    This post is a gem – and is all so true.
    “Who disturbs my slumber?” oh gods! if I had a nickel for every time I head that (plus a few choice swear words) yelled at me as I am doing 4am vital signs – I’d be so rich Donald Trump would be jealous of me. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Elaine says:

    I’m a third shift psyche nurse so u understand this and sooooooo much more. I’ve been doing nights for years. I laughed as I read this thanks I needed it.

    Like

  4. Jem says:

    Made my night…errr…day! Whatever! LOL

    Like

  5. Jamie Weaver says:

    oh, so very true, then the famous statement that day shift nurses make. we work harder than you do. you have 12 hours to do nothing……… they really have no idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michelle S says:

      I have worked both day shift and night shift. Night shift can work as hard as dayshift. Just because some of the patients are sleeping at night, doesn’t mean we don’t have to check on them (and have a squeaky door). Night shift nurses need to be commended.

      Liked by 2 people

      • ESPECIALLY so if you’re one of the quieter ones. When I was having my first child, I had THE most ridiculous time trying to sleep because of the pain. Finally, because I’d been induced earlier that day, the doctor ok’d Stadol. He thought maybe I should get some rest, because it might make labor a little easier for me.

        So,I get past the “ahhh, this is nice” part of the Stadol, never having any kind of drug besides a bit of marijuana here and there, and begin to drift off. Sat upright when two nurses decided at 3am mind you, to yell from one end of the hall to the other, to speak to one another. They were discussing plans for whatever after their shift. I actually felt bad for doing what I did, because I was no better myself for what came out, but I yelled DAMMIT, can you PLEASE speak quietly, people are trying to sleep, this is probably the last we will sleep for some time, so kindly SHUT YOUR YAPPERS. Dead silence for the rest of the night, except for the women that were in active labor yelling. My mom and mother in law both looked at me with awe, and admiration. I thought for sure my mom would yell at me about how rude I was. As it turned out, they wanted to go out there and say something to them, in thought about how to say it firmly but kindly. I’d solved that. In my defense, being half asleep, I’m like the “Who wakes me from my slumber” patient. It was the rudest thing I’d experienced from any health care worker.

        Like

    • Mike says:

      you have 12 hours to clean up day shifts mess)

      Like

  6. jennevery says:

    Holy crap this could not be more spot on!! ha ha…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. brannob says:

    Reblogged this on brannob.

    Like

  8. Good God, I’m about to leave for work!! NOOOOOOOOO

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Beth says:

    Love Mrs. Doyle from “Father Ted” with her “Go On!” about five hundred times.

    Like

  10. Janie Jackson says:

    This was all so true it was scary, I am not working nights now, and this made me trimble and get a little sick at my stomach thinking I might have to go back to that.

    Like

  11. Nida a. Ocampo says:

    day or night shifts doesn’t matter, its our life! should still be thankfful we matter in ths world! hurray to us nurses! (btw, i’m already a retired nurse and i’m proud i took this course!)

    Like

  12. Michael Nichols says:

    Been a night shift nurse for 20 years and I love the one about the computer system going down. It went down last night at work at 0245 and came back up around 0615, love it that our administration and others think that we don’t anything on the night shift!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kathleen says:

      Daylight savings time sucks. Night shift is long enough, add another hour, computer down for 4 and all water in the hospital out from 22-06. Who thought it was a great idea to do it all on the same night?

      Like

  13. paula says:

    So true and hilariously funny

    Like

  14. REALLY?????????????????????

    Like

  15. Miriam Hill says:

    I did nights for about 40 yrs. and know first hand what a walking zombie is, but still found them better then days. My most famous line–“Can’t, have to work tonight.”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. donotrangers says:

    Its very funny LOL

    Like

  17. Laura says:

    Been an ICU night shifter for 3yrs, this is
    LITERALLY HOW IT GOES haha esp when
    I float to the floor. Thanks for the laughs
    I almost died!!!

    Like

  18. Hilarious look at emotions experienced by the night nurse. Our hats off to you for what you do.

    Like

  19. Tommie says:

    Whoever wrote this just nailed it. .. spot on!! I’ve worked nights for years, wouldn’t change a thing, but to few people realize the challenges bits has. No bonbons, for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Charity says:

    This was a well done job, have been a nurse for a long time , it’s so true I wish I can add more to it !!! Or write a book about it !!

    Like

  21. Helen Martin says:

    I worked night shift for 40 years. Less staff and much work. People just don’t feel sick during the day. Babies don’t wait til day shift to be born. We also had less resorce personel so had to take more responsibility, plus, we had to deal with sleepy, grumpy docs. I still liked the shift though.

    Like

  22. Christine says:

    I love, love, LOVE this. After working 3 HORRIBLE shifts this week, I needed that laugh. I’m a 12he love two night nurse now…but I’ve also worked 12he day shift too. I think ALL day shift nurses should have to work nights for awhile..maybe they’d understand their night nurses better.

    Like

  23. Christine says:

    Oh geez…see how tired I am…LOL I can’t even type and make any sense.. My post before was supposed to say “I’m a 12hr shift night nurse now…but I’ve also worked 12hr day shift” now maybe everyone can understand my post better LOL

    Like

  24. Brenda says:

    nIght shifter in a sicu for over 20 years—love this! The hardest thing about nights and possibly the best at the same time—-no doctors around! LOL and someone remind me…why did we decide that allowing family/visitors in at the bs all-night-long was a good idea?—omg go home!!!!!

    Like

  25. As one of the two females in my family that is not a RN or CNA, I still felt every bit of pain and joy you have shared! Currently after the most traumatizing 10 months of my life, working in retail, I’m going to school in the Spring to be a CNA. I’m still thinking of going further to be a RN. My mother in law started school in her 40’s, and so very good at it. Meaning she didn’t do it for the money, she really does care about all of her patients and speaks of them frequently. She never complains..well that’s not accurate, she does complain about inept nurses who really have no clue, or just don’t give a damn anymore. She’s the inspiration!

    Many thanks to the night nurses. My dad was just in the hospital for open heart surgery. The kind, but firm nurses saved his butt.

    Like

  26. lacmoser says:

    Lmao, I’ve been a US (Unit Secretary, for nonhealth care persons) for 23yrs. I’ve been on 12hr nights for 14yrs and this is so funny and true. The call bell and doesn’t stop ringing. I believe pts become nocturnal when in the hosp. And don’t get me started on how hard it is to get supplies or stat test done in a timely manner, because the hospital run a skeleton crew at night, because pts sleep at night, people dont get hurt or ill til daytime!!

    Like

  27. Regina says:

    Did Nursing for 40 years and am now retired….all I can say is that I lived to say this! Some days were really in question; It’s too bad that no one but another nurse can relate to this !! I love the clip of “don’t look back” and really felt the only time I had a chance for sanity again, after working 12-14 hours, is when I got in my car and started the engine to head home ( I’m finally free).

    Like

  28. edwinbobo says:

    i did night shift, cardiac,
    for some reason 3am is their favorite time to have MI, but that kept you awake, the worse is to have to watch monitors at 3am, you need toothpicks to keep your eyelids open!

    Like

  29. Carl says:

    This is why, when in hospital, I take short naps as well. The local hospital has to wake us up every four hours to do temperatures and blood pressures, and at least when I am awake I am not a butch like other patients often are. Often found night shift to be nicer, often more quirky (for me a good thing!). Love them. 🙂

    Like

  30. Michelle says:

    Lets not even mention even when you have days off you get exhausted at 2 in the afternoon and have to take a nap, and your aging faster then all your friends even though both your parents look like they are in their 20’s.

    Like

  31. Bryce says:

    the only unrealistic part of the whole post is leaving on time.. I’d be still charting at 9 a.m.

    Like

  32. Tammy Lake says:

    I am a night Housekeeper in Labor and Delivery and Kudos to all Nursing Staff on Night Shift every where because You are some very awesome People I see it every night,.,.

    Like

  33. Don B. says:

    WONDERFUL!! Laughed SO hard. Have worked nights most of my 34 years as an RN. SO RIGHT ON THE MONEY! Maybe some day folks will read the part about taking 15 minutes to chat and make coffee and WONT anymore. Ahh, probably not. THANKS SO MUCH for the laughs.

    Like

  34. Leona says:

    Been a night shift RN in the SICU for more than 18 yrs., and totally relate to this ~ so, so true! I LOVED the one of the little girl (Boo?) from Monsters, Inc., trying to keep her eyes open!!!

    Like

  35. kelly f. says:

    OMG…………..LMAO. You were right on the money! Fortunately I work with a bunch who are REAL team players. We don’t let anyone drowned..it CAN get hairy..esp. with patients going thru DT’s,and sundowners 🙂 and so right about 1/2 staff and getting supplies. Also: how many time do patient’s and the families think of meds and stuff after 10 P.M. cause that soooooooooo the time to start calling doc’s..right? I mean they HAD ALL DAY

    Like

  36. I am not a nurse, however, I have worked my share of nights in a convenience store in a college town, (my sympathy to you nurses LOL) Because of a chronic condition I have, I am in the ER more often than I would like and naturally it’s at night because Lord knows a flare up is never convenient. I want you to know, that from a patient, thank you for everything you do. Always being their, listening, making sure we are comfortable, everything. Especially thank you to all you nurses who have helped the dying, die peaceful and with family around. I am thankful for the nurses that took care of my grandfather the day that he died. And because it was in a smaller town, these nurses knew my family personally. You share our grief and our frustrations and I hope and pray that more patients realize all that you do for us so selflessly, even when it’s hard and you are dead on your feet. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

    Like

  37. Dianne H. says:

    Thinking I hope to stay away from the hospital day or night! Nurses remember in it’s own way teaching school can be equally as frustrating. Instead of shifts teachers have legislators, students, and parents.

    Like

  38. Lreganmir says:

    Day shift PLEASE read this! We’d like to stay and chat but sorry! Gotta go!😘

    Like

  39. carol Jarmel says:

    Loved it! many years on nights—-one of the most memorable? I’m in the ER, about to leave at 7:30AM, we get a call of multiple trauma coming in………..I offer to stay a while and help out………..9:30AM, I go to the desk, things have quieted down———-I ask if someone can relieve me so I can go home?———“Not just now,” states the NM, “The day shift is doing their morning beaks so there’s no one to relieve you just yet.”.

    Like

  40. Kathy says:

    When the night shift people “all” wanted to go ski with their families together (they are sometime your only social contacts due to weird shifts to work and hrs—every other weekend instead of every 3rd, because of less staff!) we were told they couldn’t “punish the day people” by making them work for us so we could all be gone! NOT GOOD! Anyway, nights worked for my family and I. Also, “pain free and asleep” was my motto and I did everything in my power to bring that to reality for my patients. Staying under the political radar of the day was also my goal! Was told once by a teacher that I was just a “tech,” as a nurse and on nights. Should have told her, “honey, you’d better hope my radar is working well because more often than not from 7pm-7am, if you are going down the wrong path to recovery, your nurse better be the one alert enough to ‘catch’ and treat the situation! –because everyone else is snug at home and asleep!!!” Thanks for the memories! The people I worked with on nights were awesome and I tried the best way I knew how to make my patients life “unmemorable!” Thank you God for the job that gave me the financial ability to support my family and oh, we also ‘did have some fun’ as we worked — again, less political types around.

    Like

  41. Ron Allen says:

    I think the day shift actually thinks the patients sleep all night, just like they do. Loved it.

    Like

  42. gayle says:

    I’ve been on nights for 30+ yrs. Loved this, but forgot to mention we have fewer resources and only call providers if we absolutely have to, because they’re sleeping and have a busy day tomorrow.

    Like

  43. Michelle says:

    I’ve been working nights for 30 years and absolutely love it! We are a rare breed and not everyone can handle it…the hours or the lifestyle. We work very hard to …..contrary to “day” belief! Loved the clips and LMAO!!!

    Like

  44. Regina Gininwa says:

    Awesome post and all soooooo very true!!!!! May God bless all nurses and give us the patience,wisdom and strength to continue caring for each patient in their unique ways.

    Like

  45. agnes Shoenthal says:

    I retired in 1987 but still remember the night shift Love Aunt A

    Like

  46. Jo Fieseler says:

    Amazing! Perfect representation of one night shift. Now multiply it by 30 yrs worth and then think of all those wonderful beings u served!

    Like

  47. Mjlove29 says:

    Reblogged this on Hungry Hair and commented:
    One of the best night shift reads I’ve come across in a while! Enjoy!

    Like

  48. Dale Henry Caldwell says:

    Not changed much since 1997. Forgot to add got home and had narc keys in my pocket, but I guess that obsolete now

    Like

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