How to Survive The Night Shift: A Guide for Medical Travelers


For experienced medical travelers, the night shift is no stranger, but if you’re new to working nights, simply surviving might be all you’re thinking about.

The night shift can take over your entire day — if you let it — but if you take the right approach, you’ll be able to survive the night shift and get the most out of that extra pay.

Here’s everything you need to know about surviving the night shift.

Preparing for the Night Shift

If you haven’t started your night shift yet, the most important thing you can do is to switch over your schedule as early as you can.

That’s not always possible — you might only have a few days between contracts — but as soon as makes sense, start sleeping late and staying up late until you’ve completely switched over.

You don’t want that very first day in a new facility with new people getting completely messed up because you’re totally exhausted.

Once you’ve switched over, it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene. This means going to bed at the same time each night and avoiding screens before bed. Additionally, it’s important to stay hydrated every day and get plenty of exercise on your days off.

Structure is going to be key to surviving the night shift. Your body is going to fight you at first. It can even take several weeks for your body to get used to the idea of being up all night.

Having a clear structure when you’re not working can keep you from sliding back into a normal schedule accidentally.

If you have three or four days off in a row, you might accidentally find yourself waking up at noon by the 4th day, making your next shift that much harder to get through. Going to sleep at the same time every day and waking up at the same time is critical to success.

Maximizing Sleep

When you work the night shift, sleep is something you’re going to end up paying even more attention to than you would during day shifts. Working three 12-hour days in a row can get you hyper-focused on the sleep you’re not getting, but with night shift, you have to be paying attention when you’re not working too.

Make sure that you are getting enough sleep during the day — at least 7–8 hours of sleep. This is much harder to do during the day for all kinds of reasons.

One big reason is that the rest of the world is active and doing things. That means you’re going to be dealing with phone calls and texts, knocks on the door, workers outside, loud vehicles, people talking, children playing, and all kinds of other daytime activities that you now have to try to sleep through.

You can’t control all that, but you can control your sleeping environment. Make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable. Put your phone on sleep mode (or, if you feel comfortable doing it, turn it off entirely). Put a sign on your door that says, “Do Not Knock or Ring Doorbell!”

Wear an eyemask. Hang some blackout curtains. You might also want to black out your windows entirely. If you live with someone, have a conversation with them about keeping the noise down during the day. Soundproofing could also be a good idea, or you might just want to play some white noise or wear some earplugs.

You should also take some simple steps before bed that everyone should be taking anyway, like avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and screens.

Strategies for Staying Alert

Not all night shift workers can switch over easily, and if you’re only working nights for a few months, you might not even want your body to get used to the idea of being awake all night. Staying alert during your shift can be difficult, so you’ll want to do everything you can to maximize your alertness.

Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the shift and take regular breaks to rest your eyes. You might also want to invest in some blue light blocking glasses.

You should also consider using caffeine in moderation. Caffeine can be a great way to stay energized during the night shift, but it’s important to make sure you aren’t overdoing it. Too much caffeine can lead to restlessness and jitteriness and make it much harder to fall asleep when your shift is over, which will affect the next day.

Staying Connected During the Night Shift

Working the night shift can be isolating, so it’s important to make sure that you are staying connected with your friends and family. Make sure to set aside time to talk with your loved ones when they’re awake at the same time you are. Try to make plans with them so that you don’t feel completely disconnected.

The night shift can be a great opportunity to explore your hobbies and interests — after all, you’re going to have a lot of time to yourself when no one else is awake. This can be a great way to make the most of your time off.

You should also try to connect with your coworkers on the night shift and hang out with them when you’re both off work. Sitting at home all night on your days off isn’t exactly fun, and since it’s night time, it’s hard to explore the city you’re in. Finding other people who are awake at the same time that you can spend time with can make a huge impact.

You can also find online communities of night workers to connect with if you’re having trouble connecting with coworkers.

Remember that even if you’re waking up at 6pm or 7pm, there’s still plenty of overlap with the waking world — make the most of that time so that you don’t feel as isolated from 12am onward.

Finally, you might make the decision to stay awake during the day on your days off. Not everyone can do this, and having to switch over multiple times a week can be hard on your body, but if you’re feeling too isolated being awake at night every single night, it might be the best way to go.

Dealing with Stress During the Night Shift

Working the night shift can be stressful, so it’s important to make sure that you are taking care of your mental health. Take time for yourself. This can include taking breaks, engaging in hobbies and interests, and talking to a therapist if needed.

It’s also important to make sure that you are setting boundaries with your coworkers and supervisors. This means not taking on more than you can handle and taking time for yourself when needed — make sure you aren’t overextending yourself.

It’s okay to ask for help when needed. This can include talking to a friend or family member or reaching out to a therapist.

You Can Do This

Working the night shift can be challenging, but it can also be a great way to gain experience and make the most of your medical travel career — and the extra pay doesn’t hurt.

If you’re looking for your first travel nursing assignment — or if you’re looking for your next assignment — we’re here to help.

Apply Here to get started Today!


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