You're going to be doing a lot of paperwork and error checking/correcting. You will be reviewing charts to see whether care plans
have been written. You will be second-checking medication orders to see whether they have been transcribed from the physician's orders page to the medication administration record correctly.
If you're on an electronic medical record then your time should be used more efficiently than if you're on a paper system.
You will be checking thermometers on various refrigerators and recording temperatures. You will be checking restraint equipment to ensure that units are stocked. Maybe you'll be checking medications to see whether something needs to be ordered for the day shift. You might be setting up medications for the day shift to pass, or you might be pulling early AM meds to pass yourself. Thyroid medications are typically passed by the night shift in my humble experience, your facility's policies may be different.
You may be responsible for combining day to swing, and swing to noc shift reports into a comprehensive report that goes to day shift so they have a heads-up for what's coming.
You may be documenting fall risks for patients who are loaded up on benzos or antipsychotics. You may be documenting sundowning. Night toileting assistance requirements. Stock and inventory for the upcoming day and swing shifts. If you count controlled medications you may want to leave a message with the pharmacy if they need to stock something for upcoming shifts.
As a new staff, I would offer to help swing shift with passing late medications, doing late dressing changes, late toileting, rounding on patients to give the MHTs or the swing shift nurse a chance to do last minute documentation. Once you help swing shift wrap up, it's time to hustle patients to bed by hook or by crook. Be aware that some patients may stay up late to do artwork or visit another galaxy for a while as they stare into space in the day room with their headphones on.
As a new staff, I would offer to round on patients once or twice a shift to give your MHTs a smoke break or whatever. Do a good check and make sure to figure out how to tell whether somebody is alive.
Go through the shift handoff communication stuff and see what you can add to your AM report.
Always be at least 15 minutes early and eager to help with end of shift stuff. Stay 15 minutes late and offer to help day shift get up and running. Do the blood glucose checks or something to help out day shift.
Guess what? When it's time for somebody to leave day or swing shift, they may look to a new nurse who has done a crackerjack job helping out on days or swings to fill in. Make sure that both swing and days look at you as an asset.
You won't get much patient interaction on night shift, so take that time to learn your hospital's policies and procedures. Learn your state's nurse practice act. Study the psychiatric medications and why they are prescribed. Read charts on your downtime and get to know the MDs and other nurses through the documentary trail they leave behind.