New nurse very depressed--night shift?


I have been a nurse a little over half a year. I started working night shifts in the ER (7p-7a) in mid December (I worked in the ER prior to that so I knew what I was getting into). Since then, I have gained 25 lbs, I sleep up to 18-20 hours a day when I am not working, and I despise going to work. I have lost all desire to do anything on my off days. I feel ill all the time. I have withdrawn from everyone, my friends and family, because I don't want to bring them down. It's so bad many times I wish I would have a car accident on the way to work. I'm careful only because I don't want to hurt anyone else on the road because of my stupidity and self-centeredness. I have never been this depressed in my life. My co-workers are mostly ok, the work is hard of course and we're always busy and understaffed, but usually I deal ok with that when I am at work. So far, my state of mind has not affected the care I give--I am actually getting the hang of things at work and have received compliments from the higher ups and other nurses on how well I am doing. If they only knew what was going on inside.

Could it be just working night shifts? I really think working night shift has messed with my mind. Unfortunately, there are no earlier shifts available. I did tell my manager when I started that I have always been a day person and to please keep me in mind for a day position when one becomes available. I thought, I would pay my dues. I thought I would be fine after I adjusted, but my mental and physical health are at the lowest I have ever felt in my life. I am already on anti-depressants (not working) and I had my physical recently (nothing unusual except for a depressed WBC count).

Am I just too weak? Should I give it more time? It's only two months, but instead of improving, I am getting worse, having thoughts that would get me involuntarily committed if I ever told anyone in the ER about them. Should I talk to my manager and beg her for a transfer? My ER has no day shifts, but two of our sister hospitals do. The problem is my dept paid for this internship program and I agreed to stay with them for a year. At the same time I don't think I will make a year in my current state of mind. I tell myself to snap out of it and quit the pity party, but it's not working. I hate that I feel so mentally weak. Any words of wisdom or advice would be appreciated. I am desperate. Thank you.

Has 12 years experience.

I'm going through the same thing. The only difference is that I have been working nights for a couple of years now this time around. I have worked nights of and on throughout my career and I used to love working nights. Now I dread it. If I wake up in the middle of the day to go to the bathroom or something, instead of falling back to sleep, I lay awake dreading going in for another shift that night.

I am to the point where I have sent out my resume and have a couple of interviews already lined up. Fortunately I am not contractually obligated to stay on nights.

Only you can decide what is right for you. Have you talked to your manager about this? If not, do so and see if she can offer you something else.

Whatever happens, good luck.

wonderbee, BSN, RN

1 Article; 2,212 Posts

Specializes in critical care; community health; psych.

We are, by our natural tendencies, not nocturnal. Weakness has nothing to do with it. The depressive episode OP is describing requires immediate attention.

I would suggest looking into that transfer now. The manager's understanding is not the priority concern here. It's nice to get kudos at work. We don't get enough. I understand that's hard to walk away from. Peronal health trumps everything.


163 Posts

We are, by our natural tendencies, not nocturnal. Weakness has nothing to do with it. The depressive episode OP is describing requires immediate attention.

I would suggest looking into that transfer now. The manager's understanding is not the priority concern here. It's nice to get kudos at work. We don't get enough. I understand that's hard to walk away from. Peronal health trumps everything.

I agree. Do what you need to do to preserve your health. Does the hospital have any counseling services available? :redbeathe


45 Posts

Specializes in LTC, med-surg. Has 6 years experience.

I have been working shifts for 10 years, 8 years of rotating all 3 shifts on an irregular schedule and now 2 years straight nights.

I put in for a transfer to days this past friday because I'm growing tired of not having a part in my husbands life. We see each other on weekends only right now and maybe a few hours during the week. On off days I am drained and unmotivated, nevermind the "marital dues":zzzzz

I also feel as if I am aging so quickly lately, if you know what I mean.

Hopefully by summer I will be on days and be home every night to have dinner with DH and go to bed together and wake up together...

As for you situation... I urge you to get off nights yesterday. If your manager doesn't hear you please find another job! And if you ever feel so down that you just can't take it anymore please come and share with us!! Your health (physically, mentally and spiritually) is the most important thing you have.

Hugs, Diana:icon_hug:

HM2VikingRN, RN

4,700 Posts

Absolutely get help! Please call your EAP person and see your Doc for evaluation.

No advice for TOS reasons.

Liddle Noodnik

4 Articles; 3,789 Posts

Specializes in Alzheimer's, Geriatrics, Chem. Dep.. Has 30 years experience.
If they only knew what was going on inside.

Boy am I having a deja vu. I don't know how much has to do w/ nocs or what but I do suggest you get to a counselor quickly so you can contract w/ them not to do something stupid, and so you have someone who knows EVERYTHING about what is going on in your head. I ended up trying to commit suicide in 1985 because I would not do that. And you sound like you know that would be a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

I have since had bouts of depression, and tho I always preferred nights I'm sure it didn't help. I wonder if it would be possible for you to switch to 8 hr shifts for a little while or take an extra vacation day here and there while you seek a counselor and reach out to some good girlfriends? That did help me regain a little strength while we (employer and I) sought other solutions. It's great that you are talking about this - and it's important to do this w/ a real person and be accountable to them while you are struggling. God bless and I hope you feel better soon!

Morettia2, BSN, RN

1 Article; 241 Posts

Specializes in CTICU, Interventional Cardiology, CCU.


Thank god I found this post..I have been searching for someone that feel the exact same way I do. I have been on nights for a few months now..I started on days for 4 months and went to nights in november 07. I sleep more than ever 16+ hours some days, my skin looks like crap, not like it matters no one ever sees me anyway b/c I am a hermit. I have the worst dietary habits, I only see my family once a month if that cause they live in another state and my schedule never seems to correspond with theirs only b/c the days I have to work they have off and we have self scheduling which I do at the start of every month and for some reason mysteriously my schedule always comes out blank when the final one comes out, and someone attacks it with a red marker to puts in days that I didn't mark off b/c I photocopy the original one I make when I do it, I am the only one this happens to, i have written notes, takled to the manager and director there goes any hope of spening time with my family or fiance. I don't know why I even bother trying to figure out what days I need off, or how many nurses are on for that night anymore b/c someone is just going make my schedule for me completly diff. from the one I made. , my mom and aunt(who is also a nurse with 30+ years experience, 17 in the ER)came to visit me last week and my mom who owns a very very busy hair salon took 3 days off work just to come spend some time with me b/c my family is so worried. I talk to my mom every night on my way to work and every morning on my way home, we are very very close. I haven't talked to my friends in months other than random emails and random messages. b/c no one other than us night shift people are awake at 4 am on a wed. night for a phone call b/c they work days. My fiance is a police officer and we only see each other passing in the day for about 5 min, and he also works 4p-1a with rotating days off which I try to get off but again the schedule thing. Haven;t had the same days off as him in about 2 months not healthy for us. I get home I feel like roadkill, it's alway sunny on my days off, but I can't even enjoy it b/c I am so exhausted. Our room is blacked out, which is good. But 3 weeks ago my fiance said to me, "I am worried about you, you sleep for hours on end on your days off, you don't go out, you don't eat, you are so pale and you seem miserable." He worked midnights for about a year so he understands how I feel, but I am a very happy person usually, USUALLY. Nights is killing me..I am praying that our floor director opens up 11a-11p spots..only one nurse on my floor works that shift b/c she is PRN,and who is one of my best friends . we are thinking bout asking the director of nursing for the hospital if we can get enough nurses to work 11-11 if that can be one of the shifts on our floor that is a regualr shift..this is a collaberation of day and night nurses interresed. I want 11a-11p...some wnt 11p-11a perfect right? yea that's what I thought no one wants to put in the effort to push the topic b/c 7-7 is the way it has been for ever..well if no one wnats to push then I am going to take the reigns and PUSH for it..I am sick of all talk and no action. I am the kind of person that goes for what I want, my schedule being the only thing..and lord knows I tried but all things aside I am going to bite the bullet and push for some change...thanks for listenin to the night shift rant


39 Posts

So sorry to hear you are feeling so down but I can so empathize with you! When I graduated from nursing school I was offered a position in a very good hospital in my area. The only problem was it was on the night shift. I too have never been a night person, have always been able to function much better in the mornings. Well to make a long story short I lasted 6 months on night shift, became severely depressed and was diagnosed with Shift Workers Syndrome (yes there is such a thing!) At that point I went straight to another hospital and I was very frank with my interviewer, explaining to her that the reason I wanted to leave was because I was hired for night shift and I realized I'm just not a night person. In the end I got a position in my dream area of L&D on the day shift and I gave in my resignation effective immediately.

Please don't put up with a horrible situation such as the one you are in. It's just not worth it! You are so important to all around you. Jobs come and go, God closes one door but he alway opens others. There has to be a way out. God bless you and please let us know how it all works out for you!!!!



303 Posts

cousx2- first of all *hugs*. You sound like you are going through a terrible time now.

No, it isn't your fault, in general we were not made to be awake at night and just because it isn't working for you doesn't mean it is your fault. (I really appreciate those who are able to work nights by the way but not all of us are cut out for it).

You are having thoughts of self harm, you must get help. I recommend you go back to your Dr, ASAP and tell him/her how you are feeling. Obviously, as you mentioned, the antidepressant is not working but the good news is there are others that can be tried. Could you take a leave of absence for awhile? Could you look for another job? Your health is number one, please seek help.

As hard as it is, don't blame yourself. It isn't your fault.


19 Posts

YIkes..another reason im hesitant to become a nurse. I was never an early person.

During on esummer high school year I walked to school at 5am so I could play volleyball. Yep practice started early. I wanted to play varsity but in order to join you must go through the summer camp. It was hard despite getting 7 hours of sleep. I started to get sick. Running nose..fever. The practice during the Varsity season during the school year had the same morning schedule too. It was either my health or volleyball and I chose my health over it. Im glad I did because I was hurting my health big time.


146 Posts

((((Hugs)))) Please be well, I went through a minor depression about 6 mo out of starting too.. Felt I had been sold a bill of goods, was a crappy nurse ect.. It gets better a great nurse I know told me it was "growing pains" Glad I didnt bag it right then its getting better

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