By Jennifer Larson, contributor Mar 21, 2018
Night owls, take note: there’s a strong demand among health
systems for nocturnists—those go-to hospitalists who work the night shift,
Could this job be right for you?
Nocturnists are unique among hospitalists because they are
often the only doctors on the floor after all of the other physicians have finished
their rounds and gone home. Working the night shift, they can enjoy more
autonomy and often a quieter working environment. Yet the job isn’t without its
And the specifics of nocturnist jobs will
vary from one facility to the next.
Nocturnists are increasingly common in hospitals, according
to the 2016
State of Hospital Medicine Report. Health care systems want to hire
nocturnists because they need to have a physician present on the floor at all
times to care for patients and produce the best possible patient outcomes.
The presence and consistency of nocturnists also allows
hospitals to offer more scheduling options to their hospitalists, which can aid
in recruitment and retention.
If you’re intrigued by the possibilities of working as a
nocturnist, here are some pros and cons to consider:
The Benefits of Nocturnist Jobs
Higher pay. The
pay can be very attractive for many hospitalists considering a nocturnist
position. A recent article in The
Hospitalist, published by the Society of Hospital Medicine, estimates a 15
percent pay differential for nocturnists’ salaries. According to Indeed.com,
the average annual salary for a nocturnist is currently $229,980, compared to
$207,565 for hospitalists in general. Other sources put nocturnists’ salaries
High demand for your
services. As the State of Hospital Medicine Report noted, at least 70
percent of hospitalist programs now include a nocturnist. And demand is
growing. If you’re looking for nocturnist jobs and have good experience, you
may find organizations eager to court you. Locum tenens nocturnists
and other hospitalists
are also in high demand for temporary assignments.
Fewer (or shorter)
shifts. This varies from hospital to hospital, but some facilities will
offer shorter shifts—8 or 10 hours, as opposed to 12 hours—or fewer shifts as a
way to lure a nocturnist onto their staff. In some cases, you might be able to
work fewer shifts per month than a days-only hospitalist might be required to
More independence. If
you like a lot of independence in your practice, a nocturnist job might be a
good fit for you. When it comes down to making clinical decisions, the buck
basically stops with you. Yet, in most cases, you still have the option to call
in other specialists when necessary.
Camaraderie with the
night staff. Nocturnists are not entirely on their own. You’ll work with
the nursing staff, possibly a nurse practitioner or two and maybe even a
resident. There are also assistants and others working the night shift, and you
will likely have interactions with the emergency department staff as they
transition patients for admittance. You’ll get to know your fellow night-shift
workers well, and enjoy the “we’re all in this together” camaraderie that can
More time to practice
medicine. If you’re tired of meetings, rounds and administrative tasks, you
might be well-suited to night shift work. While documentation requirements are similar
to other shifts, there are generally fewer daily tasks to take up your time, and
fewer people coming and going at night. This allows you to be more available to
listen to and assess patients, perform procedures and practice medicine.
Time during the day. When
you work the night shift, you may have more time during the day to spend with
your family, pursue professional development or enjoy other pursuits. Parents
who work as nocturnists often appreciate the chance to sleep while their kids
are in school, and then pick them up, take them to sports and activities, and
share dinner and early evenings together.
The Challenges of Nocturnist Jobs
Working alone. Nocturnists,
many times, must be comfortable working alone and be confident in their clinical
skills. During the majority of their working hours, they won’t have ready
access to other physician colleagues to informally consult, and specialists are
normally only called in extreme emergencies. Independence may morph into
loneliness for some physicians.
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Day meetings will
still be required. Nocturnists have to be flexible with their time. Staff meetings are traditionally held
during the day, as are meetings for quality initiatives and other hospital
improvement programs. You may have to come in on your day off or stay late
after a night shift to attend certain meetings.
Sleep issues. Many
studies have shown that working the night shift can interfere with your body’s
natural circadian rhythm, especially if you alter your routine substantially on
your days off. Some people are able to adjust and find a workable schedule more
easily than others. If you struggle with getting enough sleep and your body
doesn’t seem to adjust over time, working as a nocturnist may not be the right
job for you.
adjustments. The people around you will also be affected by your unusual schedule,
so engage them in your planning. It helps to post your work and sleep schedule
so family members or roommates know when you are trying to sleep and when they
can expect to see you. Find a daily meal you can share, whether it’s breakfast when
you get off shift or dinner before you leave for work. It may take more effort
to stay in touch with friends who work days, as well, but it is important to
maintain those relationships and your support system. It is also important to
still find time for exercise and to maintain your overall health.
full-time or part-time jobs for nocturnists and other
hospitalists, or physicians and advanced
practitioners in a wide range of medical specialties.
CONTACT Staff Care today to learn
more about our locum tenens opportunities.