10 Things Only Night Shift Nurses Understand

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?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. I have been a nurse for 43 years and most of my latter years have been on night shift. The nurses I work with (in Neuro-Trauma ICU) are a family. One of my most favored memories of being a night nurse has to do with a new orientee who I was working with who experienced her very first “Oh s—!!!” moment when a severe trauma patient who didn’t make it came to the unit. This changed her career and she became a fantastic nurse. I will always treasure these times with my new nurses, who advanced to being super nurses. Party on, night shift!!

  2. Love it when the day crew tell you to go home and have a good nap! We try to sleep like everyone else even though people don’t understand our sleep cycle.

  3. Wake up in a panic because not sure what day it is, what time is it, did you sleep through your shift? Any other thought which you would fail for the orientation part of assessment; alert, awake and oriented questions.

  4. We never want to work “fall back” for daylight savings, but no worries about “spring forward”. That one extra hours can make you delirious!

  5. Going into a dark pt room and doing what needs to be done, i.e vitals, diaper changes, IV meds etc. without waking the pt and their family and hear from the parents thank you for letting us sleep!

  6. At night when it is the patient alone with their illness, they will tell you things that they will tell no one else. Things like how scared they are and how they don’t want to die-or how they are ready to die but are not giving up because of what it would do to their family. When I worked in Children’s Hospital a terminally ill girl of 17 told me she had lost her virginity after the Homecoming Dance. What a precious gift for her to share with her nurse.

  7. Less help for emergencies due to skeleton staff. All the paper work due to falls from your sundowners. 1-2 falls every night you work. Alzheimers patients and sundowners!!!!!! but I love being a nurse!!!!

  8. Sounds like it hasnt changed. I worked nights after graduation/50yrs ago this June in fact. Actually I liked the absence of visitors..made it a little quieter. 2 bad things…the night supervisor had you one on one..she was an old military nurse and if she wasnt happy you were the only one to get yelled at! It was great birth control…I’d come home as my husband was leaving for school LOL!!

  9. Someone on day shift calling you at 2 PM and telling you “OH well it’s time for you to get up anyway.” I would love to call them at 4 AM and tell them the same thing.

  10. LMAO….trying to explain to someone when it’s The best time to have our smorgasbord has to be Between 0100am & 0200am with all SCU Staff in a Trauma-Neuro-CABG Surgery Unit ….Because we have learned all Pts. crash between 0630 and 0700 or 15 mins before shift report! and Yes the only night we will fight to the death not to work is on a FULL MOON!!! Don’t believe me? Work One Night during a Full Moon….You’ll learn real Fast! After 20 Years on Nights!

  11. Night shift nurses are the bomb!! We have limited resources, work well together and become a bonded family. Night shift rocks!!

  12. Explain to day shift we really do work on the night shift just differently than y’alls shift. Drinking coffee at 3am is a staple to stay awake but need a glass of wine in the morning to go to sleep.


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