11 Tips for a CNA on the Night Shift

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated May 12, 2022 | Published April 13, 2021

Updated May 12, 2022

Published April 13, 2021

Related: How to Survive the Night Shift as a CNA

Our host Aleysia, a CNA, invites you on a typical night shift, explaining the work she does, and provides tips for how you can find success and job satisfaction when working night shifts.

CNAs are integral members of a healthcare team and support nursing staff to care for patients. CNAs often work in hospitals, nursing homes, rehab centers and in other medical settings, where many work long hours and overnight shifts. If you're adjusting to an overnight work schedule, there are several strategies you can use to make it easier to adjust to working the night shift. In this article, we explore what CNAs do with 11 tips for creating a healthy work-life balance and establishing healthy routines so you can increase your job satisfaction and succeed in your career.

Related: 15 Tips for Nurses To Survive the Night Shift

What is a CNA?

A CNA, or certified nursing assistant, is a healthcare professional who provides direct care to patients in nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, outpatient care centers, hospitals and other medical environments. CNAs work alongside registered nurses and physicians to carry out basic medical processes for patients in their care. CNAs work directly with nursing staff, doctors and patients and must have strong interpersonal and communication skills in addition to technical and medical knowledge.

Related: Learn About Being a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)

What does a CNA do?

Nurses and physicians supervise CNAs in hospitals and other healthcare settings, where CNAs perform basic medical tasks like taking patients' vital signs, recording patients' medical information, assisting patients with mobility and helping patients with everyday activities like dressing and bathing. Other job duties a CNA may perform include:

  • Monitoring patient vital signs, including heart rate, temperature and breathing patterns

  • Recording medical information and reviewing patient care methods with nursing staff

  • Communicating with patients and their families about care methods, activities and visitation procedures of the facility

  • Assisting patients in moving around the facility and transporting patients to and from facility areas

  • Cleaning and maintaining facility environments, including laundering, disinfecting and sanitizing areas

Additionally, many CNAs may work in fast-paced and demanding environments, where they take on multiple tasks throughout their shifts. As a CNA, you might work daytime, afternoon, evening or overnight shifts, depending on the needs of the organization. Because CNAs perform many patient care processes to aid nursing staff, these professionals often work long hours to support healthcare teams in treating patients.

Related: Your Guide To a CNA Career: How To Obtain CNA Certifications

Tips for CNAs who work the night shift

If you work overnight hours as a CNA, consider the following tips to help you perform more effectively, reduce stress and succeed in your career:

Create and stick to a routine

Set a routine for yourself that incorporates a sleep schedule and eating schedule and helps you keep your work schedules organized. Stick with your routine as much as possible, and slowly add personal tasks to your routine as you get used to working the night shift. For instance, create a routine that includes time for completing household chores and errands and keeps your sleep schedule consistent. The more you can stick to a routine, the better you can adjust to working overnight shifts.

Build supportive relationships at work

Get to know your coworkers and find ways to support each other. Maintaining friendships at work can help you get through more stressful moments on the job and boost your morale when you face challenges. Building relationships at work can also give you a supportive group to rely on for feedback, constructive criticism and advice when you need it. Many CNAs often find that their work friendships help them stay engaged and motivated during long overnight hours, resulting in greater job satisfaction and positive company cultures.

Develop a healthy work-life balance

Take steps to establish boundaries between your work and personal interests and activities. Creating a better work-life balance can help you relax more when you end your workday and approach challenges on the job and in your personal life more proactively. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can also be beneficial creating and sticking to a consistent routine.

Related: 10 Tips for a Better Work-Life Balance Now (That Actually Work)

Schedule breaks during your shift

Set regular break times for yourself during your shifts to eat healthy snacks, get some exercise and socialize with your coworkers. For example, one method that can be beneficial is to schedule one short break for every several hours you work. Be sure to keep your break times consistent, especially the breaks you plan for your meal times. Taking regular breaks can also help you stay motivated to complete your work shift.

Use meal planning strategies

Take time during your off-hours to plan out your daily or weekly meals. Preparing your meals in advance can help you significantly reduce the time it takes to prepare and cook each day. Planning your meals ahead of time can also help you make healthier meal choices, since you can take time to choose and prepare different foods that fit your dietary needs.

Maintain a consistent sleep pattern

Planning your sleeping schedule is essentially part of establishing a consistent routine, however, it can be challenging to get adequate sleep during the day when other activities arise. It's important to set clear boundaries during the day for getting the sleep you need to perform effectively at work, such as locking your door or turning off notifications and ringers on your devices. Additionally, try to maintain a consistent sleeping pattern so your body can adjust to a daytime sleep cycle.

Related: FAQ: What You Need To Know About Working Evening Shift Hours

Make your bedroom conducive to sleeping

To help you get better rest, create a relaxing environment that you can sleep comfortably in. Consider installing curtains that can keep your room dark so you can promote deeper sleep. Keep the temperature cooler in your room, too, to induce better rest and help your body relax. Creating an environment that helps you sleep comfortably can help you wake up more alert and better rested so you can perform effectively at work.

Limit overstimulation after work

When you get home from work at the end of your shift, it might be hard to stay awake. However, it's important to establish daily chores as part of your routine to maintain a traditional environment. When you get home from work, though, try to limit the amount of stimulating activities you engage in so you can spend time unwinding before you go to bed. Try splitting up the chores and errands you need to complete at home so that you can finish them easily. Limiting overstimulating activities after work can also help you prepare yourself for sleep and promote better rest.

Establish healthy habits

Start establishing healthier habits that help you use your off-hours for beneficial and enjoyable activities. For instance, set a regular exercise schedule, keep up with medical appointments and incorporate more natural foods into your diet. Setting goals that help you stop bad habits and increase good ones can give you the motivation you need to take on the challenges and rewards of working the night shift.

Related: How To Overcome Challenges as a Night Shift Nurse

Ask for help when you need it

Always reach out to someone when you feel you need some extra help or support. For work-related topics, issues and concerns, have a communication plan in place so you know who you can talk to regarding different situations at work. It's also important to have a support system outside of work, such as your close friends or family, that can give you assistance when you're facing challenges or when you need to boost your mood.

Reflect on your passion

Continue to reflect on why you chose your career in healthcare. Reassess the skills and qualities that make you good at your job and consider the positive impact you have on others you interact with at work. It's often helpful to reevaluate these aspects of your career to remind yourself of the reasons you chose a career as a CNA. For instance, focus on how your communication skills and approach to providing care are unique from your coworkers' methods or the qualities that you enjoy about providing care to patients. Having deeper insight from your self-evaluation can also help you find extra motivation to succeed on the job.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Being a CNA

In this video, our host, Aleysia, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), shares everything you need to know about being a certified nursing assistant, including common role responsibilities and requirements you have to meet to become a CNA.

Browse more articles