Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

A war exists in healthcare – a war that has been plaguing our nursing profession for more than a century. This war brings with it injuries and casualties. This war is well known but rarely spoken about in public.

What is this war? It’s the war between day shift and night shift.

Ending the shift wars in Nursing!

The day shift nurses think the night shift sit around all night sucking the liquids out of bon-bons.

The night shift nurses think the day shift are the favorites and get all of the support, resources, food, and fun. So, what do nurses do? They fight – not overtly. No. Their weapons are a bit more subtle but equally lethal.

Dumping: nurses deliberately leave work for the next shift – work that they COULD have done but chose not to. They retime the meds so that they now appear on YOUR shift, conveniently postpone that CT of the head scan for later, and somehow leave all of your patient’s IV bags dry to the point where you have to get all new tubing.

Withholding information: nurses “forget” to let the next nurse know that the physician wanted to be paged as soon as the patient’s wife arrived. The physician rounds – finds out the wife has been there for over 2 hours, and rips YOU a new one.

Leaving a mess: There were times when I had to clean up the patient AND the patient’s room before I could assess him. And by the way, you can tell when someone’s been incontinent for a LONG TIME!

You know I’m speaking the truth.

Nurses complain constantly about being short staffed. However, is it the number of nurses working or is it THE nurses? We have to stop this war with our counter shift. Care happens 24/7. And, ultimately, when you dump on the next shift, withhold information and leave everything a mess, you’re impacting their ability to provide good care to your patients.

I travel a ton and stay in a lot of hotel rooms. Although I typically don’t get housekeeping services every day, I’ve made it a habit to set the housekeeper up for success. Before I check out, I gather any garbage and throw it in the trash. I put all of my towels and washcloths in one place and put the TV remote back where I found it.


Because I don’t know what kind of a day this housekeeper might have. Maybe she needs to make sure she gets home because her kid is sick or she needs to be on time for an appointment. Maybe the last room of the day is trashed and it will take her 3 x as long to clean it. If setting her (or him) up for success by making it easier to turn over MY room, I may have just helped her get home and back to her family.

I do this because it’s the right thing to do. Think about how you leave patients on your shift.


How can you set the next shift up for success? Try any of these:

  • Leave a courtesy bag in the patient’s room if they are on continuous IV fluids.
  • If they are having a procedure or test that day, print the patient education materials and hand it to the next nurse so she doesn’t have to look it up.
  • Anticipate any supplies he/she might need and put them in the room.
  • Warn the oncoming shift nurse about any behavioral issues (I once had a patient who tried to catch nurses making mistakes. He would give you the wrong birthday, last name, etc. Thank goodness the nurse before me warned me!!).

Care happens over a 24-hour period of time – not 12 hours (or 8) – not just on days or nights. By setting your coworker up for success, you are ultimately helping that patient get well enough to go home to his/her family.

Let’s STOP this turf war and START setting each other up for success!

What other ways can you support your colleagues on the next shift? Please leave ideas in the comments below.

Renee ThompsonTake care and stay connected.

If you like this post, I recommend the following:
1. Share with your colleagues and friends using the social share buttons.
2. Subscribe to my blog.
3. Sign up to receive my latest updates and other resources via my website.

Dr. Renee Thompson works with healthcare organizations who want to overcome the leadership and clinical challenges their people face every day. If you’d like to find out more about her programs, please visit her website

Contact Renee today at to bring her to your organization to talk about ending the cycle of nurse bullying.

Table of Contents

Join Our Community

If you would like to stay connected and receive resources, tips, and tools to help you cultivate a professional and respectful work culture, click below!

Keep Reading


  1. Great article, but I could not get it to print. Will share with co workers, maybe we can start “playing nice” with each other.

    1. Thanks Kathryn! Funny. I just sent this blog post to you in an email!! Thought you would appreciate. We need to set up the next shift for success!! Not failure!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top