The Life Of A Night Shift Nurse

life of a night shift nurse, danielle levy, nurse uk

As many of you all know for the past year I have been a cardiac critical care nurse and have spent the best part of that year on nights. Whilst working in an ITU/critical care environment is pretty much the same whether it's day or night, the night routine on our unit is a little bit different. This new year I am working 10 straight night shifts so I thought I would bring you all along and show you what the average night shift for an ITU nurse looks like.

life of a night shift nurse, danielle levy, nurse uk

We have such a variety of patients in terms of the level of care they require in our unit as we have postoperative level 3 patients as well as long-term level 3 patients and as such our routines differ between them. One thing you won't see me mention loads is observations as we do hourly observations (sometimes more or less depending on how poorly or well the patient is, we can do them as frequently as every 15 minutes or every 2-4 hours for example if a patient is ready for the ward).

08.00-15.00: I'm asleep ready for tonight's shift. Through all my night shifts, the only way I've found to be able to stay awake and not feel like death during my night shift is to stay awake the night before at home to get a proper amount of sleep.

15.00-17.00: I use this time before getting ready to tidy, work on my blog, go the gym and just relax.

17.00-19.00: I spent this time eating dinner, showering, doing my makeup (so I don't scare my patients) and getting ready for work.

19.00: I normally make myself a coffee before I head off to work and yes it takes me nearly an hour to get to work every day, that truly is the killer after night shifts having to drive home for nearly an hour.

20.00: Monday to Friday work starts with a staff huddle of unit updates and bits of information we need to know. We also get little group training sessions from our in-house education team during this period. When that's finished it's time to head to the unit, find out where I'm going to be and get handover.

21.00: We assist our patients in having a wash at the start of the night and change their bedding so they can get comfortable and try and get as much sleep as possible. Our unit is designed like big circles with curtains/walls that separate off bed space, whilst it allows us to be able to see all our post-op level 3 patients at a quick glance, it doesn't lend to the best sleep environment. So we try to keep it dark and as quiet as possible during the usual times that you would be asleep.

22.00: This is when the majority of our medications are due and a lot of our IV's and antibiotics. Once all our medications and washes are done, we turn off the big lights and make the unit quieter to let our patient's sleep.

00.00: We roll our patients every 3 hours to relieve pressure and prevent any pressure damage. It's also time for some pain medications and sometimes a couple of others. We also have to fill out a document that monitors what equipment our patients are on and what level of care they are every 24 hours.

02.00: I try and get some of my writing on the computer done, 95% of our paperwork is on the computer, pretty much the only paperwork we have to fill out regularly is our observation charts which are huge paper charts that show everything from blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, infusions, NG feeds, any other inputs, Drains outputs, urine outputs, any other outputs, NG aspirates, AVPU and RASS score, pain, sedation, pupil size as well as the oxygen requirements they have (ventilator, CPAP, high flow nasal oxygen or wall oxygen), respiratory rate and saturations.

03.00: It's break time! I can't eat loads on nights, I am more of a snacker than having a full meal so I go to one of our staff rooms and use the time to put my feet up and have a little rest before it's all go again.

05.00: Time for bloods, we don't send bloods every day unless requested or they require a check such as an INR check for warfarin, what bloods we send all depends on how many days they are post surgery. 

06.00: It's time for the morning medications, one last roll and finishing off the last bits of documentation.

07.00: The last set of observations are done, it's handover time (hopefully it's the same nurse that handed over to me as that equals quicker handover and earlier dart) then I can dart back to my car in hopes of missing the rush hour traffic!

08.00: If I don't get stuck in traffic, I just about make it home for 8am then I drink a quick glass of water, take off my makeup and crawl into bed before I pass out and it's time to start it all again!

All in all, it can be a pretty maniac day or can go quite smoothly depending on how things are, e.g. if we get admissions overnight, particularly poorly patients in the unit or on the ward.

What's a day in the life of your job like?

Speak to you next time!

1 comment

  1. I don't know how you do it, I can't do nights at all, I am useless when it comes to sleeping during the day no matter how tired I get so it just messes with my body clock something shocking! Your shifts sound so busy, I don't know how you do it but you are brilliant!

    Sarah :)
    Saloca in Wonderland