How can student nurses prepare for their first night shift?

How can student nurses prepare for their first night shift?

Nursing is a demanding job that often requires you to work around the clock, especially in residential and hospital settings. If you’re heading into your first overnight shift, you may find the process strenuous and a difficult adjustment to overcome. A night shift can shock the system and leave you tired with low cognitive abilities as our bodies are programmed to be alert during the day and sleep during the night. As a result, it can take a while for a new nurse to switch up this habit and get used to the demands of a new overnight routine.

If you are planning on taking up nursing as a profession, you can do so by joining the University of Indianapolis’ online school for nurses, which will equip you for rewarding careers in nursing, advanced practice, education and leadership, as well as preparing you for the tough demands of this healthcare field.

Here are some tips that can help you prepare for your very first overnight shift as a nurse:

Tips for pulling an all-nighter as a nursing student

  • Try to get a lot of sleep before your shift

Getting enough sleep during the day can help you withstand a long overnight shift. If you are someone who finds it difficult to sleep during the day because of the surrounding noise and lights, you can trick your brain into thinking it’s night time by using eye masks, covering your windows and making your room/sleeping area as dark as possible.

  • Keep moving

If you have spare time during your shift, try to stretch or walk around, as movement will keep your blood flowing and releases adrenaline, which will help you stay awake, especially during the wee hours of the morning. Also, you can try to walk in place while sitting at a desk as you do some charting. 

  • Focus on quality nutrition

Eating a large meal or a carb/sugar-heavy diet can make you feel more tired and invite sleepiness. To avoid this problem, try and opt for small, healthy, nutritional and balanced meals throughout the night to give your body the fuel it needs to keep your blood sugar nice and level. This will help you stay alert and aware throughout the night.

  • Don’t over-caffeinate

While having a caffeinated beverage or a five-hour energy shot at the beginning of your shift should be fine, try to avoid consuming too much caffeine throughout the night. You may get a burst of energy only for it to crash an hour later, making you fall into a slump and feel more tired than you already were. Moreover, try to avoid coffee, tea and fizzy drinks right before the end of your shift, as you may not be able to sleep when you get home after work.

  • Stay hydrated

Always keep a water bottle on hand, as dehydration can trigger feelings of tiredness. Staying hydrated during a long shift will help you maintain your body temperature, improve cognition and mood, prevent infection and make your body and mind feel more vigilant and energized.


Your first night shift as a new nurse can feel like a shock to the system, but by following the above tips, you can help prepare yourself physically and mentally as you embark on your exciting career in healthcare.

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