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Whether you are fresh out of nursing school or an experienced nurse who is looking for a change, one of the biggest decisions is whether to work nights or days. Days vs. nights is a common conundrum for nurses, and it is one that just about every healthcare professional faces at some point during their career. The day shift and the night shift both have their positives and drawbacks. And much like choosing your favorite men’s nursing shoes, it is something that largely comes down to personal preference. 

Some folks love the increased pay that comes from working nights, while others feel that the extra cash does not make up for the inconvenience of working while the rest of the world sleeps. If you are struggling to decide which option is right for you, keep scrolling to learn more from this nursing guide to day shift vs. night shift. 

The Day Shift

The day shift is the most active time for hospitals and doctor’s offices. Many nurses choose to work this shift since it encompasses more “normal” working hours than the night shift. A lot happens during this time. It is when surgeons, physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners make their rounds. It is usually when medications are changed, tests are ordered and performed, and charts are reviewed. And if you work in a teaching facility, students, interns, and residents are usually on-duty during daytime hours. 

Because so much happens during the day, this shift can be quite intense. If you work in a hospital, there are usually steady admissions and people constantly coming and going for various tests and services. More procedures take place and more medications are typically administered during the day than at night. Meals are distributed throughout the day, and there is just a lot more going on during the day than there is at night. This is both a positive and a negative. 

If you love working in a fast-paced environment, working the day shift may be your best bet. If you prefer a slower pace, though, working days might be a bit too chaotic for your liking. 

Benefits of the Day Shift

Working days is easier on your body. Humans are biologically programmed to sleep at night. Working the day shift means listening to your natural circadian rhythm. You may also have more learning opportunities during the day. Anecdotal evidence suggests that more learning takes place on the day shift because more healthcare professionals are working and discussing patients. Some staff members — like case managers and respiratory therapists — also may not be available at night. 

The dayshift is great for developing your teamwork skills, too. With more people roaming the halls and caring for patients, you’ll have a lot more opportunities to interact with colleagues if you work days. You will interact with patients and their families more, too, which can improve your bedside manner and boost communication skills. 

The Night Shift 

Source: Thomas Andreas/

While many nurses prefer the day shift, there are plenty who love working nights, too. Many healthcare professionals prefer working the night shift and wouldn’t trade it for anything. There is a certain mystique about working when most of the world is asleep, and night nurses share a special camaraderie with other people who are on the job while most of us are tucked away in our beds. 

If you are not fond of the hustle and bustle of the day shift, the slower pace of the night shift may be more appealing to you. And since most organizations offer shift differentials and higher pay for those who work nights, being at the hospital outside of “normal” business hours can be quite lucrative. 

Benefits of the Night Shift

Visiting hours normally end in the evening, so there are not many visitors and family members around at night. And since most doctors and other healthcare providers work days, there are fewer of them roaming the halls on the night shift, too. While a hospital may be a hive activity during the day, they tend to be much quieter late at night. Keep in mind, too, that when you commute outside of rush hour, you won’t have to worry as much about traffic or finding a good parking spot. 

Working the night shift works better for some parents. Depending on your hours, you may be able to get home in time to get your kids off to school. And when you sleep during the day, you can wake up in time to help them with their homework before heading in for your shift. Keeping up with parent-teacher conferences and other important events is sometimes easier for people who work nights. 

Even if you do not have kids, though, working nights can make it easier to keep up with other appointments and responsibilities. Finding time for errands and appointments may be less stressful if you aren’t working during the day when most businesses are open. 

Which Is Better? 

When it comes to determining whether the day shift or night shift is better, it comes down to your lifestyle and preferences. A lot of people feel that working days is the only way to enjoy a healthy work/life balance. Others find that working nights makes tending to matters in their personal lives much easier. Some folks adjust better to working at night and sleeping during the day than others, too. 

Healthcare workers are needed at all hours of the day. If you are just beginning your career and are unsure what shift is right for you, try both. It never hurts to do some experimentation to determine what you like best. Likewise, if you are feeling burnt out, switching to a different shift could be a perfect solution. 

No matter what shift you prefer, you can make your days better and brighter by wearing stylish printed scrub tops. Dressing for success is a great way to breeze through your shift while putting smiles on your patients’ faces. 

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