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Do Night Nurses Have a Voice?


As a former night nurse myself, I have a great deal of respect and affection for the night shift. While working in a fast-paced, high-risk pediatric cardiac ICU, the patient care was intense enough for me, without the throngs of consultations, discharges to the step-down unit, and endless streams of admissions from the OR. I loved my coworkers. There was a sense of “we’re in this together,” a sense that even with three cardiac arrests in one night, we’d make it to the other side if we all played our part. I liked, too, that I didn’t have to hobnob with administration and didn’t have to participate in the politics game. I liked coming to do my job and then leaving.

But there were downsides to working the night shift, too. There was, of course, the chronic fatigue, a price I was willing to pay for what I felt was a more positive work environment. There was the general, unspoken (and sometimes pointedly spoken) judgment from day staff that the night shift was filled with underachievers who just wanted to sit. There was a lack of in-services and debriefings, a missing relationship with the nurse manager and other hospital administration, a sense of disconnect.

This intriguing report explored the experience of night nurses in a hospital in Australia. Several themes emerged, including a perception of being undervalued, a sense of minimal leadership, feeling left out of professional development opportunities, and desiring more autonomy and support from administration.

Is that your experience? Is there a perceived disparity in your unit and/or institution in opportunities and support between the night shift and day shift? Conducting a similar inquiry as the report above may shed light on some issues that need to be addressed.

If you think that there may be room for improvement in supporting your night staff nurses, try implementing some of these strategies.

Suggestions for Improving Communication with Night Nurses 

  • Listen to and validate concerns.
  • Offer staff meetings at a variety of times.
  • Nurse managers can arrange hours periodically to be available to night staff.
  • Record daytime in-services to allow the night shift to watch and discuss.
  • Implement a clinical nurse specialist for education and professional development of night staff.



What do you think? Do night nurses have a voice? If not, what recommendations do you have for strengthening that voice?

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. I am a long term (33 year) night shifter. I agree that most of the data exchange in meetings occurs on day shift and so I have made myself become involved at these meetings so that my fellow night shift co-workers have a voice. I am the co-chair of our staffing committee and I sit on our negotiating team. It is hard going back and forth- nights-days but very worth it to have a voice. I laugh when I hear others refer to us as slackers- the flow of night shift in our busy ICU is just as busy as the day shift – minus meals. We have less staff to rely on and as such have formed a great team environment. Some of us are designed to be night shift workers.

    July 20, 2014
  2. Debra Blackburn #

    All my life I have been an owl. I am a night nurse in Independent living/asst living. I like the opportunity of having the time to spend 1:1 with a person that has night issues such as anxiety,sleeplessness,etc. I agree there is a mind-set that night shifters are lazy–cannot handle day time stress or the pace and we do not play well with others. We are often not included in activities/mtgs. If mtgs are arranged,it is usually during our busy time. I can have hectic shifts–it is a different type perhaps than days/eves. However,I have seen a similar mindset for nurses that work weekends. It seems that Day Shift believes they are the most important/busiest/etc. I wish we could just stop the comparing and appreciate our differences and similarities.

    March 9, 2014
  3. I know better than to truly believe it’s just my facility, but when you’re functioning in a vacuum, it’s easy to forget there are others sharing the same experience. While I want only the best for my fellow night owls, it is reassuring to know I’m not in it alone. This pretty much describes my facility exactly.

    March 4, 2014
    • Meaghan O'Keeffe, RN, BSN #

      Thanks for commenting. I’m interested to see if other readers have had similar experiences. Staying connected with night staff seems to be a big challenge for even the most well-intentioned leadership. Not impossible, though.

      March 4, 2014