night shift nurses

Night Shift Nurses: Essentials for New Employees

As nursing homes hire new employees, preparation and training of those employees is key in risk management. Just like nursing home insurance, orienting new staff members to the rigors of facility operations can help to prevent injuries, hazards, and liabilities. Many new nurses will be faced with night shifts, which requires special considerations for nursing home managers. In this guide, we will explore the best practices in helping night shift nurses navigate the challenges of night shift duties.

The Night Shift: Pros and Cons

In any around-the-clock healthcare facility, the night shift presents unique challenges. For many new nurses, being assigned to the night shift is all but a requirement, especially as more experienced staff members gain the ability to choose their preferred working times. In other cases, seasoned nurses and support staff indicate preferences for the night shift. Benefits of night shift duty include:

  • Free time during the day for personal activities
  • Fewer distractions from facility visitors
  • Less managerial oversight
  • Generally higher pay rates

Night shift duties also come with certain drawbacks, including negative physical, social, and psychological health concerns. For staff members unaccustomed to night shifts, their job performance may suffer, resulting in increased liability exposures. While nursing home insurance protects against many liabilities, orienting night shift staff can help to reduce the potential for risks.

Preparing Night Shift Employees

Sleep disturbances are the leading concern for new nurses finding themselves on duty over the night shift. In a study conducted in 2015, less than 60% of survey respondents indicated that they were getting enough sleep (defined as seven more hours of uninterrupted sleep) between shifts. Almost 30% reported being unable to sleep at all between shifts and experiencing periods of 24 or more hours of wakefulness at least once a week. Sleep deprivation is a serious medical concern; chronic sleeplessness is associated with a higher risk of:

  • Cognitive impairments
  • Obesity
  • Compromised immune systems
  • Metabolic changes
  • Development of certain cancers
  • Workplace-related injuries and illnesses

Fighting chronic sleeplessness among night shift nurses is complex. Some facilities adopt a “night stay” program in which night shift workers adjust their lives to working after hours. Another beneficial option is for night shift workers to take a brief nap just before the start of their next shifts. Training and intervention programs to prioritize sleep often include tips like:

  • Avoiding caffeine toward the end of each shift.
  • Eating lighter meals before sleep sessions.
  • Limiting exposure to screens and bright lighting before bed. 

Other tips for getting better rest for night shift nurses include:

  • Using earplugs and eyeshades.
  • Lowering the temperature of the bedroom to promote restful sleep.
  • Avoiding the long-term use of prescription or over the counter sleep medications. 

Adapting to the Night Shift: Training and Tips for New Nurses

Employee training and orientation forms an essential part of risk management. Just like nursing home insurance protects facility assets from a range of risks, training programs protect staff members against the hazards associated with the nursing home work environment. Many facilities have added staff training programs in exercise, nutrition, and wellness to help ease the stress and strain of working long hours. These programs have proven to be beneficial, reducing the likelihood of staff burnout and keeping injury/illness claims to a minimum. Other tips for training include:

  • Adopting a new mindset regarding night shift duties, reframing night shifts as an opportunity rather than a burden.
  • Finding joy and humor in night shift work. Things happen during the night shift that are unlikely to occur by day – often resulting in staff being able to laugh about the situations they are presented with. 
  • Celebrating the camaraderie that comes with night shifts; staff that works together overnight develop strong personal bonds that help them to overcome any challenges they may face. 

Nursing home insurance protects long-term care facilities against many risks. Protecting new nursing hires falls to the facility’s managers. By adopting training programs and by encouraging the positive aspects of night shift work, new nurses are better prepared to make the transition into this unfamiliar, yet essential, part of the caregiver experience. 

About Caitlin Morgan

Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.