Day Shift vs Night Shift Nurse: Which is Better for You?

Do you ever struggle with making the decision between day shift and night shift nurse jobs? It can be tough to decide which is better for you, but don’t worry – we’re here to help! 

There are two types of nurses in this world: day shift nurses and night shift nurses. Both have their pros and cons, but which one is better for you?

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In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the differences between day shift nursing and night shift nursing, and help you decide which is the best choice for you. So whether new nurses or seasoned and considering a change, read on for some valuable information!

This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. You can read the full disclaimer for more information.

What are typical nursing shifts?

The two most common nursing shifts are day shift and night shift. With each shift lasting for 12 hours. The start times of day and night shifts can vary slightly by facility but the most common is 7a – 7p or 7p- 7a. Some facilities don’t pay for lunch breaks. And in that case shifts are from 7a – 730p or 7p – 730a.

Many employers offer full time benefits to nurses who work a minimum of 36 hours per week. This means that a nurse can work three 12-hour shifts a week and have four days off.

Keep in mind that you are only paid for hours worked. So you may have full time benefits and receive your healthcare benefits as such.

Your paycheck will be your salary per hour multiplied by the number of hours worked. If you don’t work a full 40 hours per week, you will not be paid for 40 hours.

Certain places you find to work, may also have a 12 hour mid shift option. It may be something like 10a – 10p or 12p – 12a.

Less common shift options include 10 hour shifts and 8 hour shifts.

Nurses working four 10 hour shifts per week would have 3 days off every week and receive 40 hours worth of pay. Ten hour shifts can also be either day or night shift.

Most people are familiar with how 8 hour shifts are structured. For nurses dayshift is typically 7a – 3p. Evening shift 3p – 11p. And night shift 11p – 7a. This schedule leaves you with 2 days off per week. In this case you work 40 hours and receive 40 hours worth of pay.

This shifts of course will vary depending on the place you work. The option to work 12 hour shifts is commonly seen in place like hospitals that are open 24/7. They’re in need of nursing coverage around the clock. 

The option to 10 hour and 8 hour shifts (primarily daylight) can be seen more so in outpatient facilities like doctor’s offices.

Day shift vs night shift: pros

Now that you have some idea of typical shift options for nurses, let’s take at look at the pros and cons of the most common shifts.

Day shift pros


One of the first things you’ll notice as a day shift nurse is the number of other people working. Since it’s the most common you will find the majority of staff present during the day.

Which means you’ll have a lot of support. You should find it pretty easy to access doctors, therapists, case managers, and other personnel.


Opprotunities to engage in teamwork are plentiful. Day shift nurses work with other disciplines to accomplish lots patient care tasks. You’ll be able to learn about different members of the interdisciplinary team and their roles.

Fast pace

And if you’re worried about your 12 hour shift going by slowly, day shift may be for you. The pace is often quicker as there are more tasks to be completed during day shifts.

Patients may have an increased number of tests or be seen by more doctors. There are also more visitors during the day. All of this makes for a faster paced shift.

Teaching opportunities

If you have a passion for patient education, day shift is where you’ll see the most action. As patients discharged during the day, you’ll have a chance to review the patient’s discharge instructions with them.

At meals times is another great opportunity to reinforce necessary diabetic education.


You’ll likely have access to the cafeteria during the day. Or you’ll often find a co-worker who wants to order from the new restaurant that just opened up by the hospital.

Doctors and nurse managers have also been known to buy lunch for the unit. The food rarely lasts long enough to be enjoyed by night shift workers.

You get to see your family

Unless your family members are also working an off-shift, chances are you’ll be able to see them more. You can have dinner together or spend quality time on the weekends doing things as a family.

Night shift pros

Less busy

Many hospital departments are closed or have reduced support staff at night. This can mean a slower pace and quieter more relaxed shift for you.

More pay

It’s not uncommon for night nurses to receive a shift differential pay for working nights. Many places offer extra pay around $1.00 per hour.

Leave work on time

With less staff on the unit you’ll have more time to complete your charting, update patient records, and do other computer work that may have been pushed to the side during the day shift. So you should have an easier time getting off work as scheduled.

Works for an introvert or extrovert

If you choose, there’s more time to spend getting to know your night shift co workers. The increased comradery can contribute to an efficient shift and a good work-life balance.

Although if you rather not socialize you can keep to yourself a bit easier as a night shifter, as there are fewer people and your patients are typically asleep.

Easier commute

If you live in a big city you know rush hour traffic can be a nightmare. Many people find it much easier to commute to and from work during the late hours or early mornings when there are less cars on the road.

Works for your family schedule

If you have small kids you may like the idea of one parent always being home with them during the week. Working night shift means your spouse can be home with the kids while they’re sleeping and you can be home with them when they wake up.

Day shift vs night shift: cons

Day shift cons

Being over shift

There’s a lot to get done during the day. Attending physicians typically perform more procedures, order more labs, and write more orders than at night.

This means you need to carry out those orders while completing your routine patient care duties. Certain tasks may be delayed due to patients being of the unit at therapy, testing, etc. Things like this make it easy to get behind in your work.

Noise level

More people on the unit add to the noise level. Team members are having conversations throughout the day regarding patient care. More call lights may be used as patients are awake and need assistance.

And many departments like dietary, use carts may squeak or just make a lot of noise as they are pushed up and down halls.

Getting up early

If you’re not a morning person but more of a night owl then day shift may be a struggle for you. The first thing you’ll do when getting to work is get nursing report. And if you aren’t alert you can miss important information.

Traffic and parking

As much of the world works day shift, you can imagine that a traffic build up can occur during your commute. Some days getting to work on time may be a challenge. Parking is another issue. Many drivers are looking for a spot at the same time.

Night shift cons

Poor sleep schedule

It’s hard to develop normal sleeping habits when working nights. You may find it hard to get much sleep while the rest of the world is awake and moving around. And it might be difficult to figure out when to sleep and when not to on days off and weekends.

Health risks

Night shift work disrupts the body’s normal circadian rhythm, or 24-hour internal “clock” that controls sleep-wake cycles. It places you at greater risk of developing mental and physical health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Studies have shown that eating at night, as many nightshift workers do, impairs the body’s ability to process sugar, or glucose. (source)

Less help in emergencies

If you’re working and a Code Blue or other emergency happens it may be just you and a few other staff members on the floor. You’ll have to work with the medical professionals that you have to quickly and efficiently provide the best care possible.

Less food options

If you forget to pack your lunch or just don’t bring one, there may not be any options for you to buy food. The cafeteria may be closed or have limited hours. Take out may also stop deliveries after a certain time.

Take longer to get promoted

Working nights you may rarely run into your manager or other people in charge. They are more likely to remember the names of those they see on a regular basis during the day. If you want to get promoted you’ll have to be more assertive and put yourself out there.

Day shift vs night shift nurse: what’s the difference?

The main difference between day shift and night shift is the work hours. In many cases day shift will start in the early morning, sometimes as early as 5am. Working night shift, you can definitely sleep in because your shift may not start until 7pm or later.

The number of people on staff is another difference. During the day there are typically more people working, so you have more support if you need it. At night, there may only be a few nurses on staff and sometimes only one nurse on each floor.

You’ll find that many of the test and procedures are completed during the day. With many departments closed at night.

There’ll be less opportunities at night for patient education. And also less visibility to show off the skills you learned in nursing school.

If you pack your lunch anyway, it may not matter to you what the food options are at night. Besides it’s a great way to control what you eat.

The idea of having less stimulation is appealing to some. If you’re someone who doesn’t like a lot of commotion, working night shifts may be a better fit.

Finally your family schedule, child care, and other responsibilities will play a role in how you view the different shift options.

Day shift vs night shift nurse: what’s the best shift schedule?

There’s no easy answer when it comes to the best shift schedule. It really depends on your career goals, lifestyle, individual preferences, and situation.

Some people prefer working night shift because it allows them to sleep during the day and they find the less stimulating environment more relaxing.

Others prefer working day shift because they enjoy the social aspect of being able to interact with more people during their shift.

If you have young children at home, working night shift may be the better option if you have a spouse that can be at home during the night. If you have a family member who can’t be left along at night, working day shift may work best and allow you sleep while they’re sleeping.


In order to find out which schedule is best for you, it’s important to consider all factors involved before making a decision to work day or night shifts. And remember things change.

Maybe one shift works best at the moment and later on down the road you find that another shift is a better fit. Be open to trying different options until you find what works best for you.

No matter what you choose, work-life balance that includes a social life is important for everyone. Be sure to take time for yourself outside of work to do things in your personal life that you enjoy.

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