I’ve always hated staying up late. When I was a little girl my Dad would know when I had turned into a “pumpkin.” Like Cinderella’s carriage my time was up and I was rapidly devolving. From birthday parties as a little girl where I encouraged my friends to go to bed early with me, to going to sleep at 9pm in my college dorm, I’ve got a pretty strong track record of having very little understanding of these so called “night owls.”
So let’s talk about some working conditions of the modern nurse that are less than ideal. Apart from risks of exposure to hazardous materials, life-long back injuries from heavy lifting, emotional trauma from patient death, and overwhelming stress for being responsible for the heath and well being of very-sick patients there is this thing called the night shift. The night shift, my worst enemy. The most unfavorable thing about my career.
People are at times confused when I tell them I just woke up at 2pm in the afternoon. These people know I work the night shift. But I still get responses like, “wow you really slept in” or “that must be nice to sleep all day”. Um yeah, no. I get home at 8am and if I’m lucky I sleep until 2pm, sometimes I can’t sleep past noon, because my circadian rhythm is seriously jacked up. That’s only four hours. FOUR HOURS. Also, when you work 3 days a week it sounds like a blast until you realize the night before your stretch of night shifts and the day after are all preparation and recovery time.
Our social life sucks. I mean who are you possibly gonna hang out with at 2am when you are wide awake? Netflix. That’s who your gonna hang out with. Or maybe some delirious crafting project. Or possibly your dirty dishes. How, you may ask, do we survive? Good question.
Lots and lots of coffee. Which is wonderful because I feel like I deserve to drink 3-4 cups of joe to keep me awake at while patients and the rest of the world are slumbering. Which brings me to my next point, snacking. Nurses are little snack savages. Someone sees cookies in the breakroom, and I literally see nurses speed walking while telling their closest nursing friends and hiding extras in their locker before they are snatched up. Snacking is a great way to stay awake, buuuuuuut it does come with a price. My waistline. And scrubs, unfortunately and fortunately are very forgiving. So I could gain 10 lbs and these stretchy pajamas we call scrubs will still fit. It is a real danger my friends, so beware of the snacking method.
So I work 50/50 which means half day shifts and half night shifts. Basically I have no sympathy for people who complain about jet lag. 0% compassion. My life is in a constant state of et lag. I may switch my circadian rhythm 4 or 5 times in any given month. This leads to a constant state of exhaustion. Constant. I give serious props to the moms and dads working night shift, many of whom will forego sleep at the end of their shift to take care of their children all day. This happens so much more than you would think.
I love the adorable elderly patient’s who apologize for using their call light. They of course didn’t want to wake us. News Flash: Nurses do not sleep on the job. The hospital is not like one big episode of Grey’s Anatomy where there are nap rooms involving all sorts of frivolity. Full Moons. Normal people, “Oh look at that beautiful full moon tonight.” Nurses, “I guess I’ll have to say an extra special prayer tonight.”
The perks of night shift. I’ve become one of those cool cats who call themselves “night owls.” And you actually do have a little bit more time to get to know your patients and co-workers. The night shift is a pretty tight knit group, although sometimes socially awkward for reasons mentioned above. So I guess every cloud has it’s silver lining and every pumpkin has it’s fairy godmother?