10 things only night shift nurses understand

Shutterstock | Khakimullin Aleksandr
Shutterstock | Khakimullin Aleksandr

Eating a burger at 7 AM. Constantly being woken up by lawn mowers, the phone and ice cream trucks on your days off. Patients who are NOT sleeping. Night shift nurses, we feel your pain!

We asked our night shift Facebook fans for the little things about life on the job that only their fellow NOC nurses would “get”…how much of this list sounds familiar to you?!

1. Our ability to eat pizza or chili at 0800…LOL!
Crystal G.

2. Knowing which docs you reallllly don’t want to wake up at 3 AM.
Lissa S.

3. I would really like to tell the day shift that the next time they call me at 2 PM to ask if I can work next weekend because someone is off, then I am going to call them at 2 AM and ask them the same thing! LOL!
Alexis F.

4. Sleep?! Neither the patients nor I know what that is…call light, call light, call light, now is it time to go home?!!
Melissa V.

5. The ever-eventful sundowners…how the sweetest lady in the morning can turn into the exorcist once 2 AM hits…
Vivaca R.

6. Coming into work with a full ER lobby and leaving the day shift with it completely empty.
Samuel J.

7. The crappy cafeteria food on nights. Chicken fingers are like a 5-star cuisine!
Beth A.

8. In peds, playing Santa or the Easter Bunny or the tooth fairy.
Evelyn H.

9. What I have always called the “mole eyes” you experience walking out into the bright morning sun (worse in the winter with the snow) after working in dim to dark lighting.
Sonya H.

10. Drinking at 8 AM! Great teamwork due to poor staffing. Morning giggles.
Meredith D.

NOC nurses, what would you add?

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95 Responses to 10 things only night shift nurses understand

  1. amandabeth

    You know when the sun is up when the patients stop screaming and finally fall asleep!

    • mona holland

      And then the day shift cancels the sitter because ” they were good all day”

      • nicoler3996@yahoo.com

        RIGHT!!! But he isn’t any trouble during the day. Well that’s because you guys have 7 nurses, 3 orientees, 2 aides and a secretary. And at night we are lucky if we have 6 nurses and 1 aide. But it’s ok we’ll keep it together with 4 bed alarms, 3 AMS and hope for the best!!!

    • SpeedTripleR

      The day nurse then reports that the pt was no trouble or slept all day and therefore she did not mention to the doctor that you requested something PRN for when the pt is streaking down the hallway to the elevators or going into other rooms screaming at the other pt “get out of my room” and no amount of gently coaxing or reorienting is working.

    • USArmyBearden

      I admit I have stood and pondered about giving a middle-aged patient a 25mg Benadryl cap for the purpose of sleep, or not. I hate paradoxical reactions. I have seen Benadryl turn perfectly sane and educated people into monkeys They are up all night, and you spend a shift TRYING to distract them. Makes for a full night!

  2. karenobrn

    All meetings and education events are during the day shift but expect us to stay awake during them.

    • mona holland

      The nurse executive never shows up on nights because ” it does not fit in her schedule”

    • pinkversed

      Nah, just close your eyes during the meeting. you couldn’t help it, you were exhausted. they get the point eventually. My boss started coming in a 0600 and having an abbreviated meeting for the night shift lol

    • ladyveteran

      Getting told you have to attend 75% of the meetings or it will affect your performance review than scheduling them at 1000 or 1400. Sure, I’ll attend those meetings when you schedule them at 2200 or 02! Or the manager that told me, “you can get up, attend them, than go home and go back to sleep”. Sure, when you do the same thing!!!

    • shannonlpn7

      Oh god yes! All our mandatory meetings are at 2pm with no exceptions! Nothing pisses me off more!

  3. LadiA_RN

    Day shift calling you at 3pm on your day off wanting to know if you can come in at 7. Ugh no, I’ve been up all day!

  4. nursekatina

    Being barely able to keep your eyes open until you get home and then not being able to sleep.

    • MedicalPartisan

      Not just night shift; I can relate 100%! Haha.

  5. singmaggie

    When your in your walking out the door and praying for cold, dark, rainy weather…..

    When you have to turn the air on on winter or roll your windows down to stay awake in your drive home….

  6. Tmarshall19

    Coffee after coffee after coffee until u say, “I can’t take another sip”

  7. enjienorwood@yahoo.com

    coming in to work at 7pm and literally walking in with 3 admissions from your own off site hospital and later find out that they were supposed to come in hours and hours ago !

    • SpeedTripleR

      The reason they were late was because they went out to eat at Outback and then shopping at Walmrt (really happened). Needless to say, the pt went home the next day.

  8. Family members wondering why your bedroom has black-out drapes and dark paint – i. e. “the dungeon”…

  9. Tawnda

    Oh you works nights? You are so lucky, your patients sleep so you don’t have any work to do!

    • respiratory

      yes yes yes they think we tuck em all in and kiss em all goodnight and waite around for the dayshift to come back…..NOT! LOL

    • SpeedTripleR

      Try doing your job with half the staff! Between Q6 hour cardiac enzymes on pts admitted for an MI, Q6 hour H&Hs for pts needing blood or post PRBCs, Q2 hour BMPs and FSBS on the DKA pt, 24 hour chart checks, chasing the sundowner down the hall every 30 minutes, replacing the foley pulled out by demented pt, cath-flo all the PICCs and central lines that are blocked so you can draw all the AM labs, restart all the accidentally pulled out IVs, clean the PEG sites and hand new flushed and feedings, help the CNAs bath the wild pts and then the CNA helps you with wound care, explain to the diabetic q4 hours what an ADA diet is and that food all through the night is not part of that diet, running to help the pt receiving bowel prep for the AM colonoscopy get to the toilet in time, check all the foleys and NGs output and chart it, calm the family who just lost a someone battling long term terminal disease then prepare the body to transfer to morgue and call the funeral home, call the night Dr for pt with unrelenting pain and having the dr yell at you when you mention the pts name because they are well known for drug seeking, then having to call that same dr because your new admission has elevated cardiac enzymes…. And that was just my last night of work!

      • orlyrose

        Omg… wow. Uhmm scared to graduate school…

      • bailey2008

        So very true !

      • asanchez

        Lol you forgot the two pts with q1hr neuro checks!

        • Chuckd117

          Wow, you almost stated my EVERY night shift. But…you forgot about day shift RN ‘s each having a new grad with them training, 2 nursing schools with > 40 students helping them, 4 nurse aides , 2 unit secretary’s, a supervisor, a chg. Nurse without patient assignment, many residents, Drs., PT, OT , and many family members all helping that day nurse with all patients care needs BUT, you the night shift nurse who has it easy will be on her shift without any aides, unit secretary , supervisors, PT, OT, or family members helping with her increased number of ratio patients and the chg. nurse with maxed patient assignments take care of all the labs, change all patients sipplies , tubes,lines, plus give baths, Cath flo all those piccs they never flushed all day. Plus, Cath those patients they never checked for voids on all day, give night shift bowel reg, that day shift don’t have to deal with, get all patients xrays, scans, mris, test and pre op consents done for am surgery in between chasing all your sundowning , drunk patients around the whole hospital between being slapped, punched, verbally abused by all your drug addicts, drunk drivers, and dementia patients. Ect. etc THEN and ONLY then can you ever state night shifts easy and we all sleep on that slow easy shift. Wake up day shift nights work harder and have to complete all out work and red lone and complete all the work day shift neglected to do !!!!!!!

  10. ruddys6

    Going for over 24 hours straight before taking a nap a few times a week is the norm. A real meal in the middle of a shift will only put you to sleep…..coffee, light snacks and an occasional Nuvigil.
    By morning our brains are mush and our speech is similar to a stroke patient, it is amazing day shift gets what we tell them in report 😉

    • respiratory


    • SpeedTripleR

      Once during morning report, I kept saying the patient was admitted last night d/t panic chroncreatitis instead of what I meant – chronic pancreatitis. I repeated it five times before the day nurse (with a confused look) asked me to please give the specific S/Ss of the disease because she had never heard of it.

      • nicunurse38

        I once had an esophogated perforus. It made so much sense after 12 night hours….until I was on my hour long drive home and realized I had to call the new nurse and tell her that it was really a perforated esophagus.

    • Dee Urban

      Or not able to eat because it makes you nauseated, and your blood sugar plummets

  11. mona holland

    Stumbling over an invisible log in the middle of your unit, and you are sure it has to be there

  12. ob1kay

    Night staff have to discharge patient to the ward when the bed was already available around lunch time. Delaying tactics of some colleagues are very annoying.

  13. sstote

    How about when you wake up and can’t figure if it’s day or night, if you’re off or on, if it’s light out or dark, if you’ve just slept for hours or just dozed and woke up? Night shift is totally disorienting!

  14. babytoes

    Staff meetings at 7:30 a.m. when all you want to do is go home. And your bosses constantly commenting on how it must be so hard to stay awake for the staff meeting.

    • penneynurse

      Which is worse, staying for the 0730 staff meeting or coming in at 0730 on your day off? Ugh. I have not eaten in a break room in years…sometimes it takes hours to finish a sandwich or a salad. Or it’s all you can do to pee once in 13 hours. After so many years on this job, my husband is still flabbergasted that it is legal to expect employees to go 12 or 13 hours without a half hour break off the floor. Medicine is the only profession where this is okay/expected. Patient loads are increasing, patients are sicker.

  15. Firemedic726

    Always the best. Daytime nurses who make the comment night shift has it easy all they do is sleep.

  16. medsurgPAH

    The best part of working nights is……..No extra stimulus as in the way of administrators, pt, ot , dietary and doctors, doctors, and more doctors.

    • ladyveteran

      That is definitely one of the best parts of working nights! NO SKIRTS/SHIRTS around to come add their two cents.

    • penneynurse

      Part of why I work nights :)

  17. Mamafara

    Husband said wish you would work days so we could have a normal life.Normal not for me ,I’m a night nurse have been almost 20 yrs.

  18. anna34r8

    Trying to explain the Gremlin effect to day shift. Have some people never heard of sundowning. My favourite my boss calling me at 1pm after a night shift to see if i can pick up in two days time. Mmm no!!

    • Steffy44

      JUST got off the phone with mine. Can I come in tonight. Uh considering it’s mostly through the day already and I work 3 nights starting tomorrow…no. Do you have any availability through the weekend…uh no I have a life and make plans around my schedule. Call a float nurse in…that’s why you hire them more than core staff anymore!

  19. Gerinurse64

    Res. that set the alarms on their cell phones. MUST have pain meds Q 4hrs, wether in pain or not!

    • Tajmya

      Or the one that walks effortlessly TO the nurses station to ask…and rates their pain as a “10 1/2”

    • penneynurse

      Yep…all the lights on, watching Family Guy and texting…headache 10/10, “don’t bother bringing Percocet, I want Dilaudid.” it’s happened.

  20. Mediiic

    I’ve never understood the worship of the doctors who want to get their sleep, no matter what. They are at work, just like we are.

    When I was working as a paramedic, I actually went all drill sergeant at a doc, who had decided, he wanted some sleep and turned his phone on silent – the thing was, he was our consulting physician and I could have used him five minutes before I got the ER nurse supervisor to wake him up.

    Also, if the doctor tells me on the phone, he’s not coming, I tell him, I’ll add to the patient file, he has been called and refused to come. That usually gets them moving.

  21. thirtyoneRN

    Love how we don’t get support staff like CNA’s or unit secretaries because “night shift isn’t that busy” I guess they forget that we do all the bed baths on vented patients at night and of course no one COR’s or is admitted to the ICU at night!

  22. msjudie

    I really hate for friends or family to call me in the middle of my sleep to chat. I cured my om by calling her at 0200 every time she called me at 1400, took her almost two weeks to figure it out. Do NOT wake the sleeping dragon, haha!

    Plus, nights are when most of the codes occur. I once had a day shift charge freak out when one happened at morning shift change.

    I’m so used to the dark that I can do most things without additional light. When the patient or a coworker flips one the light, THEN I can’t see. As someone said; “mole eyes.”

  23. samvanna

    Trying to keep your eyes open on the drive home!

  24. Mengquel

    Coming into the facility during the day and seeing you residents up in their wheelchair and having to stop and wonder “Who is that resident?” Always seeing them laying in bed in a gown or pj’s they look totally different.

  25. Mengquel

    Knowing approximately what time of night it is by who’s call light is going off. It’s PRN pain pill time for the “clock watchers.”

  26. giskatermom

    Icu transfers to medical overflow at 0700 because icu doesnt want to staff for that crazy high naintenance patient..who…oh by the way…needs a sitter…

  27. nurse1974

    My favorites are the patients who call 911 in the wee hours of the morning saying they are being held hostage or there us a fire in their room.I also enjoyed ( not) yelling at my paperboy for collecting at 6 a.m.( it was actually 6 p.m.)…..?

  28. NPBolt

    Getting confused when your not quite asleep and not quite awake, hearing the ping ping pong of the grasbys. and hearing the buzzer and thinking you are doing a drug round around the bed rooms in your house. Also questioning your self as to why you arnt getting any admission to YOUR HOUSE at 11 AM and You are asleep!!!!

    Also on the day after my last night shift at 10am and 2pm and 6pm ask me anything you want i’ll agree to it, and not remember having the conversation with you!!!!!!! cuz i will be dozing right off and on

  29. ecenson

    Taking 5 cups of coffee, and sleeping on a chair when everyone thought you are reviewing something.

  30. frankie3919

    We never, ever, know what day it is!

  31. SpeedTripleR

    I love it when a patient’s family calls in the middle of the night saying “we need a nurse”; when I rush to the room, I find that they called to get someone to come pour the patient a fresh glass of water from a full pitcher that is sitting on the table next to clean cups beside the family member. I especially like it when they remark that they had to get up to find the call button and I can clearly see that they would not have needed to get up if they had just poured the water themselves. Yeah, I do mind running down the hall thinking I might be calling a code or possibly breaking my ankles again just to be your waiter!

  32. Nursing2013

    Being called at 11 am (after getting home at 7 am) because the are short staffed and want you to work that night

  33. nurse1952

    Day nurses who sit and do not respond to a call bell if you are still standing
    at the nurses station at the end of your shift. Looking at you as if you are expected to get it!!

  34. Susan Conceicao

    Having the day shift ready to go home when you walk in 20 min before your shift but they show up 2 min before their shift & want to make coffee before you give them report.

  35. orlyrose

    You know all the 24 hour drive thrus and they know you

  36. buknoy1

    prepping a DB for family viewing (alone in PACU) at 2:00 AM!!

    • Jenny-Shel

      I hate doing this!! It freaks me out, although I do watch to much of The Walking Dead!!

  37. Meutiasari D. Radji

    “The crappy cafeteria food on nights. Chicken fingers are like a 5-star cuisine!” >> So Damn true!!! :v ahahaha

    then when our smartphone become the best lover who accompanied us on a looooong night 😀

    • BBhoot

      The cafeteria refuses to serve our nightshift crew. “We don’t have the staff to serve you all too” so pizza and chinese food it is, or bring your own. Which is a huge waste cause they just throw out the food from the daytime. Makes me so mad. they’re all “we want our staff to be healthy” then leave the salad bar open for us. Geez.

    • Kim Stuart

      What cafeteria? I don’t know one Australian cafeteria that even operates in the hospitals here anymore. All the hospitals have some crappy cafe that sell bad coffee and only $10 egg sandwiches or cakes etc, which close no later than 1900hrs. Other than that your option (If you’re very lucky), is a chocolate or crisps vending machine. Hospital cafeteria’s stopped about 15yr ago. Consider yourselves very lucky lol

  38. Lisa Gray

    We are the only people that talk about how much sleep we got. “when did you get to bed”, ‘when did you get up”, “the noisy kids kept me up” , “did you sleep” and so forth. Never hear the other shifts talk about sleep. Also the rest of the hospital thinks that little elves or fairy’s run the hospital at night…. all education and mandatory inservices are offered only during dayshift hours. We either have to stay up or come in…..sigh.

  39. 1TiredNrse

    Being at a hospital for two years and still don’t know what half the doctors look like but you’ve spoken to them a million times.

  40. 1TiredNrse

    I love walking in to a dirty unit, no med nurse to give report 8 Q2`s and covering two units. (Detox and locked).. While 3 admissions are pending. 2 psychotic patients fighting and 1 trying to awol. Nice way to start the week :)

  41. tj1957

    knowing what grocery stores are open all night so you can shop at 2 am.

  42. Dee Urban

    Pain always increases at night when family leaves.

  43. Vickie_CVICU_RN

    The thing that only night nurses understand is the joy of being a close knit group because there isn’t anyone else to help you take care of a “code brown”, a confused patient, a crashing patient. Team work defines night nurses.

    • shannonlpn7

      This is so true… one of the things I truly appreciate on night shift (at least on my wing) we all work as a team..the CNAs and Nurses..we all will get in there and bust butt together to get the job done..from a code brown to a code blue on a full code! I love my coworkers!

  44. CCampbell


    • CCampbell

      Constipation – system all to pot. Also being wide awake at 2am when you’re not working

  45. kimmie63

    When its 7 am and dayshift comes in and says……”you all just watch them sleep so why didn’t you have time to do it?” As if all we have to do is sit around all night?!?! lol honey if it could run with out a night shift why am I here?

    • Kim Stuart

      Oh I agree. I hate going home with anything not done at any time of day. Some things aren’t allowed to be done on night shift and everything needs to be crammed into the last two hours which is when stuff goes pearshaped- the Prisma crashes, the pt goes into SVT etc… It annoys me to no end when you know the night hs been slow and quiet, and the discharge/transfer papers haven’t been done and I come on to 3 heavy patients and everyone has to be discharged by 10am. The ICU I currently work at have a 2hr night sleep and nothing gets in the way of those apparently..

  46. Marla Kay Holman

    The things you find funny at 3am, cause u r delirious.

    The patient that is snoring as you walk by the room, but the second when it is time again they can have their PRN IV pain med, they are wide awake! And this is like 5 minutes after you pass the room.

    The patient who’s has been good Calling for assistance to bathroom all day, all of a sudden decides at night time they can walk by themselves and gets up thou tolling, falls, and u get to fill,put an incident report.

  47. Kim Stuart

    We work 12.5hr shifts and my gripe is the day staff are always in a hurry and on the floor at 0700 hours to start to let the poor night shift nurses go home to sleep, but after a very long and difficult day shift, I am still waiting at 1915hrs for a nurse (who is conversing in general with others at the flight deck), to come to me so I can start my 25 minutes hand over on my complex and very very sick patient. It drives me insane.

  48. Andrea Boggan

    I have worked all shifts, and the thing I notice is it is around 8:00pm that sundowning begins to occur. It is also around this time that fevers begin to spike. For those who are febrile and it is not contraindicated, I mix a combination of liquid Ibuprofen and Liquid Tylenol and administer it. Within an hour the sheets are soaked and high fevers are broken. After changing their linens, sponging/drying them off and tucking them in, they sleep like little lambs. I tried this with those who are sundowning and afebrile, and noticed a marked difference. They may still be confused, but they are less combative and hostile. There must some correlation between the sun going down and the inflammatory process. An inflamed brain is an angry brain, fighting and inner demon.

  49. S@llie28

    The ability to sleep almost anywhere at anytime

  50. S@llie28

    Racing your chairs from the nursery through labor/delivery to the entrance door when you have no patients and are tired and get silly.

  51. S@llie28

    Being held in a headlock, by a labor patient who is complete, telling her not to push while you pray the Dr gets there soon, very soon!

  52. S@llie28

    Opening up,prepping, counting as best you can and even assisting in a stat c/section while you are waiting for the on call OR personnel to arrive.

  53. S@llie28

    Finding a coworker with her head in a cupboard on the floor asleep in the process of stocking

  54. S@llie28

    Delivering a baby before the Dr could get there, or while they’re “in house,” just not “in room”

  55. S@llie28

    Drinking coffee at 0400 that was made on day shift

  56. penneynurse

    I see now McDonald’s is making a big deal out of all day breakfast…how about all day burgers? Sometimes on the way home in the morning, I don’t want an Egg McMuffin, I want a burger or a taco!

  57. Meg

    I once heard a day shift nurse say “why are NOC nurses getting paid more when we do more in the am”? Then I worked with her on a night shift and she complained ALL NIGHT on how hard it is to stay awake, and how brutal NOC shift is. I just wanted to say: That is EXACTLY the reason we get paid more. You kind of ruin your life being a night shifter, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

  58. Mariadutchnurse

    And the worst thing: daytimenurses -who have slept the entire night- coming in without a goodmorning and taking all the seats; so you -after a 9 hour shift- have to do your report standing up, while your body wants to ly down.
    At least in my first hospital they thougt the student-nurses to leave the most comfortable seat for the nightshiftnurse to do their reports.

  59. Allison RN

    My favorite is when day shift is able to get a breakfast break and a lunch break! Night shift doesn’t even get a lunch break 9 times out of 10 let alone two totally separate breaks that they have time to go sit down in the break room for… drives me crazy!
    Oh, and my other personal favorite is when we come on shift the day shift nurses expect us to drop everything and take report right then and there without even getting a chance to put our stuff away in a locker, but when it’s the end of our shift and we want to give report I get, “I’ll come find you when I’m ready.” I swear if I were to say that to them they would have a conniption fit. I hate double standards… it’s irritating.

    Don’t even get me started one the higher nurse to patient ratio. Like the acuity some how drops at night to make the higher ratios safe? Yea right!