engaging night shift


I bacame a nurse manager a few months ago to a unit that was in pretty bad shape with morale and turnover. Day shift seems to be in much better shape and like to attribute that to my presence and constant encouragement and recognition. They work great together. They work hard and I hear less and less complaints from the group. Then night shift comes in. The entire hospital has a negative attitude at night. Some nurses on the unit complain about almost everything.

What are some ways you engage night shift staff and improve morale at night shift when it is tough to be there with the staff? I feel like I am failing when I hear the night shift complaining about everything. Any suggestions or ideas are appreciated.

Specializes in Pediatrics, Emergency, Trauma. Has 18 years experience.

Have you listened to their concerns?

Have you made yourself present to see what their shift entails?

What I find is that management doesn't even make themselves present or even stay around long enough to see what type of flow, issues or events that happen during the night shift, and are prone to being dismissive of the concerns of night shift, when a lot of times less staffing due to it being night shift makes for a cohesive staff sometimes doing more with less.

I think you best bet is to meet with night shift, shadow night shift on the busiest nights with an OPEN MIND and work with them from there.

Best wishes.

Mr RN Guy

4 Posts

For about 6 months I've been working between 1 and 3 night shifts per week due to staffing issues in the hospital. I do this so that they understand I'll do what I can to make sure they do not have to work short. Their work flow is very low acuity. There is rarely a discharge. All of the surgeries get admitted during the day. Just a few ER admits and caring for the patients already there. The floor has better staffing ratios than the other medical units in the hospital. On nights I'm there I'm full of encouragement for the staff and try my best to set an example.

I know one of the things I need to do is develop effective charge nurses. Right now the culture is to find what's wrong with everything rather than seeing the good in what's right. So I'm looking for help on how to change this culture. I know the staff well. I used to work the unit before going to ICU, then going into leadership. I'll sit down with the complainers but they never have anything to say when it's 1:1.

Wrench Party

823 Posts

Specializes in Cardiology, Cardiothoracic Surgical. Has 3 years experience.

Because you view night shift as a bucket of bad apples and they can probably sense that. What are they complaining about at shift report? We complain that our aides can make or break our nights.

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia. Has 46 years experience.

OP- I highly recommend an article in the July, 2015 issue of Nursing Management titled "How the Other Half Lives". It details a study done by a long-term night nurse detailing the realities of night shift OUTSIDE the actual workflow. The sleep interruptions, the lack of institutional recognition, mandated meetings and training during what is, for them, the middle of the night. Address THOSE issues, and I think you'll see a turnaround.

PS: I do consulting work around this topic and would be happy to have you PM me.

Mr RN Guy

4 Posts

Thank you for the response. I know it was a while back now. I have a pretty solid team on nights now. Only 3 different from a year ago but we have undergone a culture change. One of my day shift aids got her RN and took a night position and continually tells me how amazing the team work is at night so I am very proud of them.

I did read that article back when you posted. I love the idea of a Night focused shared governance. The facility is big enough to support something like this. Departments are currently so separated. Engaging that house wide teamwork would be very beneficial.

I am open to more suggestions. I'd like to hear from more nurse managers/CNOs/administrators.

Orca, ADN, ASN, RN

2,066 Posts

Specializes in Hospice, corrections, psychiatry, rehab, LTC. Has 28 years experience.

I spent time working with my night shift. That way, I wasn't just a name on the schedule to them, nor them to me. As it happens I had worked night shift in the same facility years earlier, and I could offer some pointers that made their lives easier. The simple presence of a manager can do a lot for morale, especially for a shift that is often excluded from many of the activities that make for good team building. For instance, whenever we had a lunch presentation, I made sure that we set aside meals for the people on the incoming night shift so that they got some benefit from it even though they were unable to attend. I also left any printed materials that were passed out at the presentation so that they could get the benefit of the information.

It is often difficult for night shift employees to feel like they are part of the team. Knowing that their work is recognized and appreciated can go a long way.