What is a Night Shift Nurse?

A night shift nurse is a licensed healthcare professional who operates at healthcare institutions at night.

Registered nurses who work the night shift provide a valuable service to the community.

For instance, they maintain patient care standards and safety in 24/7 healthcare facilities.

They also alleviate the responsibilities and stressors of day and evening shift nurses.

As a result, healthcare facilities offer incentives and differential pay for night shift nurses.

What do Night Shift Nurses Do?

Night shift nurses perform the same duties as their day and evening shift counterparts.

It includes monitoring vitals, updating medical records, administering medications, and treating patient conditions.

They also conduct nursing assessments, triage patients, provide wound care, and coordinate with practitioners and physicians.

Night shift nurses may supervise CNAs, LPNs, and nursing assistants to ensure they perform routine bedside aid.

It includes assuring they manage patient comfort and safety and assist with feeding, bathing, bathroom duties, and other tasks.

Finally, these professionals provide emotional support and educate patients and families about procedures and treatments.

Night Shift Nurse Responsibilities:

  • Assess the patient’s medical condition (observe and interpret symptoms)
  • Evaluate patients throughout the rehabilitation process
  • Administer medications and treatments
  • Educate patients about their injuries, illness, and ailments
  • Collaborate with nurses and doctors/physicians to develop patient care plans
  • Update medical records and documentation
  • Supervise LPNs, CNAs, and nursing assistants
  • Assist patients in the ICU, ED, critical care, trauma unit, and other sensitive environments
  • Feed, bathe, and clean patients unable to care for themselves
  • Remove Stitches

A night shift nurse’s duties vary depending on their specialization and employers’ needs.

Nevertheless, most nurses concentrate on providing exceptional patient care and managing administrative duties.

Where do Night Shift Nurses Work?

Night shift nurses work in various healthcare settings offering 24/7 emergency and bedside patient care. 

It includes hospitals, nursing homes, long-term patient care facilities, urgent care centers, and assisted living facilities.

Nevertheless, most night shift nurses are known to work during the evenings/nights in hospital settings.

Night shift nurses also operate in a variety of specializations and departments.

For instance, some nurses work in telephone triage, managing patient flow, and supporting medical staff.

Other healthcare professionals work as trauma unit nurses attending directly to life-threatening patient emergencies.

As a result, the exact responsibilities and roles of nurses who work the night shift are varied.

Different responsibilities and expectations also result from the night shift nurses work setting.

For instance, nurses in small community hospitals have distinct patient demands from large metropolitan hospitals.

Therefore, the patient care process will differ significantly from the beginning of their care and treatment to the end.

Occupational Settings:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Urgent care centers
  • Assisted living facilities

What Hours do Night Shift Nurses Work?

Night shift nurses typically work in 24/7 emergency care facilities during the evening and nighttime.

Many healthcare institutions require registered nurses work 12-hour shifts to ensure patients receive optimal care.

Working 12-hour shifts also enables these professionals to manage their duties effectively and complete lengthy tasks.

Because night shift nurses work 12-hour shifts during the evenings and nights, they often operate from 7 pm to 7 am.

Comparatively, day shift nurses who work 12-hour shifts may operate from 7 am to 7 pm.

Nevertheless, some work schedules may vary to accommodate the needs of healthcare facilities.

Day shift and night shift nurses work Monday through Sunday, including holidays, due to the nature of their work.

Finally, these healthcare specialists typically work four 12-hour shifts rather than five 8-hour workdays.

How Much do Night Shift Nurses Make?

RN night shift nurses’ yearly salary varies from location to location.

However, the national average salary is approximately $76,518.

It’s important to mention that many night shift nurses earn higher incomes in high-paying states and specializations.

Some night shift nurses earn six-figure salaries due to location, specialization, and shift differential.

Many locations offer a pay differential for those who work the night shift.

It enables these facilities to fill voluntary/mandatory nursing positions that would otherwise go vacant.

In addition to wage increases for night shift work, some nurses earn more money by working in particular departments>

For instance, nurses operating in metropolitan hospital burn units make more than those in general nursing positions.

Shift Differential

Nurses who work the night shift receive a higher degree of pay than the day shift because they receive a shift differential.

A shift differential incentivizes registered nurses to apply for undesirable work shifts (i.e., graveyard shifts).

The night shift typically occurs between 7 pm and 7 am!

Many healthcare professionals prefer not to work during night hours for obvious reasons.

As a result, a shift differential is often necessary to incentivize registered nurses to fill the available positions.

The hourly pay bump for working during the night shift varies depending on the institution and state.

However, night shift nurses can earn up to 8% more hourly than their day shift counterparts!

Pros and Cons of Night Shift Nursing

Night shift work can be draining and not beneficial for people’s physical well-being, mental health, and social life.

It’s also more challenging to enjoy daily activities or manage a sleep schedule due to being tired after a twelve-hour shift.

Nurses with families have the most difficulty adjusting to night shift work due to being away from home during the day.

On the flip side, night shift work is ideal for nocturnal people who prefer to stay busy at night.

It enables these healthcare professionals to remain productive and earn money during the slowest hours of the day.

In addition, night shift nurses have a pay differential, allowing nocturnal people to benefit from the higher hourly wages.

Everyone has different biological clocks, social needs, and preferences.

Therefore, night shift work is most suitable for nurses who perform better at night than during the day.

It’s also beneficial for those who don’t mind the constraints of not being around family or friends during evenings/nights.

How to Become a Night Shift Nurse

Becoming a night shift nurse enables individuals to provide vital bedside care and support to patients needing medical aid.

This profession is satisfying for those who want to make a difference in the lives of the people they serve.

Nevertheless, individuals must spend years in school developing the education, training, and skills to be competent nurses.

The following section outlines the steps aspiring night shift nurses must complete to work in this profession.

1. Get a Diploma or GED

The first step to becoming a night shift nurse is to earn a diploma, GED, or equivalent.

Most universities and colleges will not accept students who have not completed their educational foundation.

A diploma or GED ensures students understand essential subjects/topics to perform well in college.

After acquiring the necessary education and diploma, students may apply to a college/university to further their education.

2. Complete the Nursing School Prerequisites

Upon joining a college, aspiring nursing students must complete multiple prerequisite courses to enter a nursing program.

It takes approximately 1 – 2 years to complete the required prerequisite courses.

Students must also maintain a satisfactory GPA to satisfy the nursing school’s educational requirements.

The prerequisite courses provide an educational foundation to ensure students have adequate knowledge to pass their classes.

It also enables nursing programs to determine which candidates to accept.

After completing the necessary prerequisites, students may apply to nurse school.

Gaining entry into a nursing program can be challenging due to competition and limited seating.

As a result, many aspiring students apply to multiple nursing programs to maximize their acceptance odds.

Some nursing schools may also enable students to apply one semester early to expedite their application process.

3. Join an Accredited Nursing Program

Students who join a nursing program can pursue an ADN or BSN degree.

The ADN degree takes around 18 – 24 months to complete and provides a solid academic foundation for registered nurses.

Those who obtain an ADN can quickly accept entry-level nursing jobs, gain vital career experience and make money.

Nevertheless, many hospitals and healthcare institutions prefer nurses with a BSN, especially for more specialized disciplines.

The BSN degree takes approximately 36 – 48 months to complete and provides a more comprehensive nursing education.

Registered nurses who obtain a BSN enter non-entry-level careers, specialize in various disciplines, and earn more money.

They also have a hiring advantage due to their advanced training and schooling compared to nurses with an ADN.

Some students pursue an ADN to quickly enter the field and continue their education through an online nursing program.

As a result, they can acquire hands-on experience and advance their careers while pursuing a BSN.

4. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

At the end of the program, nursing school graduates must pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing administers the exam.

The exam determines whether graduates have adequate knowledge and training to perform skillfully in entry-level positions.

Passing the NCLEX-RN exam is also necessary to obtain state licensure and practice as a registered nurse.

6. Satisfy Additional State Requirments

Before working for an employer, night shift nurses must pay all state fees and complete a background check and screening.

The drug screening ensures that night shift nurses are free of substance abuse and illegal drug use.

A background check determines whether they have a criminal record, mental health ailments, or medical conditions.

Minor violations like traffic tickets or juvenile offenses may not impact employment opportunities.

In addition, expunged, sealed, or dismissed violations may not adversely influence career prospects.

For mental health and medical ailments, it’s necessary to identify whether these conditions negatively affect patient care.

Those who satisfy drug screening and background check conditions may work as night shift nurses in healthcare settings.

Additional Resources:

7. Find Employment

After completing the previous requirements, night shift nurses may seek employment with healthcare institutions.

Finding employment at large healthcare institutions may be challenging for inexperienced graduates.

As a result, some nurses seek employment at understaffed healthcare facilities further from home to gain experience.

After acquiring experience and vital skills, they may apply to more prominent, high-paying healthcare institutions.

In addition, numerous job boards, recruitment sites, and online resources exist to help nurse graduates obtain work.

Finally, graduates may consult their college/university for hiring recommendations or placement opportunities.

Some universities help nursing students find employment quickly after graduation.

Career Outlook

The healthcare industry and nursing, in particular, are continually expanding.

As a result, the number of available nursing jobs will expand dramatically over the next decade.

The nursing profession has over one hundred specializations and growing annually.

According to BLS.gov, job growth will increase by 9% over the next ten years.

Nevertheless, healthcare facilities struggle to maintain staff due to a nursing shortage, burnout, and retirement.

As a result, many hospitals and healthcare organizations provide incentives to keep workers employed.

It includes increased salaries, better healthcare benefits, vacation time, child care, and other incentivize.

In addition, aspiring registered nurses can enjoy excellent career stability as healthcare facilities are always hiring.

It’s particularly beneficial for travel nurses willing to relocate temporarily to assist facilities on interim assignments.