Tips for Dating as a Night Shift Nurse
As a night shift nurse, your schedule may feel like it's the opposite of everyone else's: You're going to bed when the world is starting the day and prepping for work as they're wrapping up for the evening. When you add weekend and holiday shifts to the equation, it may feel like finding the time to connect with a romantic partner is nearly impossible.
But don't plan a life of solitude just yet! We spoke to three nurses who have mastered night shift life and shared what has worked for them in the romance department.
Dating as a Nurse or Nursing Student
Who wouldn't want to go out with a night shift nurse? They're self-sufficient, social, and always the first ones to hold a friend's hair back when they get sick.
Anyone with the fortune of experiencing the life-of-the-party night nurse as a romantic partner should consider themselves lucky. However, they will need to overcome a few schedule-related obstacles, like finding the time to get to know their nocturnal love interest on a deeper level.
Cecelia Mathon, a nurse who has worked nights for two years in the emergency room (ER), says communication can be challenging in the early stages of dating.
"It's definitely more difficult," she says. "People don't typically like to talk at 4 a.m.!"
An unconventional schedule may limit the number of dates nurses and their partners can go on. It's natural for someone to schedule a date for a weekend evening, but that may not always be an option for a night nurse.
The atypical schedule may be intimidating for potential partners, but stay positive.
"My dates always say they can't imagine working that job, staying up that late, etc. If nothing else, it's a conversation starter," Mathon says.
10 Tips for Dating as a Night Shift Nurse
Whether you are just entering the dating scene or in a long-term partnership, navigating a relationship while working nights can be challenging. We spoke to three experienced night nurses who provided these 10 tips for dating .
1. Get Creative With When and Where Dates Are
Emma Geiser, a nurse who worked nights in the intensive care unit and rotating shifts in the ER, recommends getting creative with times and places for dates. Even if it seems unusual to your partner, she says breakfast dates are a good option.
When your date is willing to meet you during times that aren't typical, Geiser says it "shows that your partner is interested in accommodating your schedule and life."
Another way to spend quality time with your partner is by taking an evening walk before your shift. This is a great way to work through pre-shift nursing anxiety as you spend time chatting with your support person.
2. Find Someone Who Understands Nurse Life
There is nothing like the relief of meeting a new friend or potential partner who says, "my mom is a nurse." With their experience of having a nurse in the family, a romantic partner is more likely to understand the demands of your work, plus any scheduling challenges.
Now, this doesn't mean you should ask all the seasoned nurses on your unit for their kids' phone numbers, but personal connections may be a good way to ease into dating.
By connecting with a date who understands #nurselife or shift work, you will be better equipped to work through the scheduling challenges that you encounter as a couple.
3. Set Boundaries to Manage Expectations
When Geiser worked nights, she said a key component to making her relationship work was setting clear boundaries with her partner. As a couple, she and her now-husband had upfront conversations about their expectations for holidays and weekends.
It can be disappointing for a partner to spend an anniversary or holiday alone, but by discussing schedule conflicts ahead of time, you can prevent a misunderstanding or disagreement.
Another important boundary Geiser set as a night nurse was a do-not-disturb environment to allow her to sleep. Any partner of a night shifter has probably experienced what it's like to tiptoe around a sleeping nurse — and hopefully, avoid the consequence of waking them up.
"Early on, we learned that anything left in the room while I was sleeping may as well not exist," she says.
Fellow zombies, can you relate?
4. Prioritize Consistency and Self-Care
John De Oca, a nurse practitioner and nurse coach, helps his clients find love while working the night shift. After working nights for almost 10 years as a medical-surgical and ER nurse, and as an overnight administrative nurse manager, he learned to appreciate the value of practicing self-care for nurses.
As a night shifter, it can be easy to skip the gym or order takeout because you're feeling the sluggish effects of a disrupted sleep pattern. However, De Oca shares the importance of taking time to readjust from a stretch of night shifts to take care of nurses' health.
"I had moments where my body image suffered because I wasn't taking care of myself the proper way," he shares.
De Oca suggests dedicating your first night off to self-care. Instead of scheduling a night out with friends or a romantic partner, using the time to readjust to "normal life" can help you show up at a greater capacity in social settings.
5. Be Specific About Availability
When making plans with a date or friends, De Oca advises telling them your availability instead of your days off. Often non-nursing friends and romantic partners are so excited to see you that they forget your day off isn't really a full day. To avoid confusion, De Oca says to tell your friends, "I'm available Saturday night" instead of "I'm off Saturday."
6. Make Evening Activities Your Best Friend
Many people on day shift can be heard saying, "I haven't had my coffee yet," indicating that they probably won't crack a smile until late morning. As a night shifter, your "happy time" may not come until around 6 p.m.
Luckily, evenings are a convenient time for most people to get together for dates. Take advantage of this by scheduling evening activities that allow you to wake up while you enjoy quality time with your love interest. Consider an active date like bowling or biking to refrain from nodding off while getting to know someone.
De Oca says scheduling activities at night will help prevent bouncing back and forth between day and night hours. He says to "plan a lot of dinners [and] movies."
"Go out for drinks, and don't try to be too ambitious trying to set brunches and daytime activities," De Oca advises.
7. Go On Dates That Include Coffee
As a night nurse, there's a good chance you'll develop a strong relationship with coffee as you find ways to survive night shifts. As you begin planning dates, consider bringing your romantic partner along to bond over your favorite caffeinated beverage.
You may find you become more chatty as the date progresses!
8. Avoid Talking About Work on Your Dates
Nurses see lots of interesting things at work, but some topics may be best if they're kept at the hospital. While it may be customary in the breakroom, not everyone wants to discuss a patient's bowel patterns over coffee.
"Honestly, don't talk about work on your dates," Mathon says. "Dates are supposed to be fun, not reliving the last 12-hour shift!"
Mathon suggests finding a date with shared interests so that you have plenty to talk about. If the conversation feels dry, try to have a few backup conversation pieces ready. One idea is a music album deep dive: Have your date listen to the same album (or podcast) as you beforehand so the two of you can break down your thoughts on it throughout the evening.
9. Try More Unique Dates
Between a night nurse's work requirements and sleep schedule, traditional dates like drinks after work or dinner and a movie aren't always the best option. Here are a few ideas for outside-the-box dates:
- Sunset walk
- Yoga class
- Art or pottery class
- Live music concert
10. Be Patient
It takes time to find love, no matter what shift you work. Finding a partner who respects and empathizes with your workload, work schedule, and the emotional labor nursing requires is key
to a lasting relationship.
De Oca says that having the right mindset can make all the difference in finding love.
"It's all about perspective," he says. "Three 12s means you have more time to go on dates."
Meet Our Contributors
Emma Geiser is a recovering ICU and ER nurse and currently works from home as a clinical documentation integrity specialist. She is the founder of Nurse Fern, a site dedicated to helping bedside nurses find remote nursing jobs. She maintains a free job board updated daily for bedside nurses looking to break free from the bedside and offers custom resume services.
John De Oca is a board-certified nurse practitioner and nurse coach who also holds a doctorate. Residing in New Jersey, he offers more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry with his ultimate passion being in relationships. De Oca strongly believes in personal insight and development to help his clients achieve their outcomes with a holistic approach.
Cecelia Mathon graduated from Sacred Heart University College of Nursing in 2018. From 2018 to 2020, she worked as a registered nurse at Federal Medical Center Devens in Devens, Massachusetts. She currently works in the ER at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
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