Friday, August 12, 2011

The night-shift debate

Staying up all night...

it's cool when you're a kid, a rite of passage to be able to stay awake til morning at the sleepover party.

it's no big deal when you're in college, having to pull an all-nighter to study for that final exam.

it's a necessary evil when you're a new mom, getting up all night long with your new baby for feedings and diaper changes and lullabies.

it's a due you have to pay as a new nurse, working the shift that no one else wants.

Being a part of the "night-shift club" at the hospital was something I never thought I would enjoy.  The disturbance to my Circadian rhythm, working from 7pm to 7:30am then driving my tired self home to attempt to sleep while the sun was shining did not sound appealing, but the $4/hour shift differential helped ease the pain when I was young.  Every single night was a struggle back then (I was twenty years old), and I often dreamed of "graduating" to day shift.

After several years, I finally achieved that goal.  I worked a few day shifts, then quickly realized that night shift suited my life much more.  Sounds crazy, but here's why:

When I worked days, I left my house before the kids woke up.  I didn't get home until 8 or 8:30pm (on a good day), and they were getting ready for bed at that point.  Yes, we got to be in the same house while we were sleeping, but I missed an entire day of their lives.  Not worth it.

When I worked days, I missed my "night shift peeps" so much!  There is a camaraderie on nights that you just don't find on days.  Having to rely on each other in a crisis because there are fewer staff around, bonding over coffee during the witching hour of 3am, going out for breakfast in the morning to decompress after a particularly bad night...these were things I just didn't experience when working that "normal" shift.

Last night, during the 3am witching hour when our bodies told us to sleep but our bosses said we couldn't, some of my fellow night shift nurses and I discussed this night shift debate.  Is it worth it to leave the extra pay and the great people, just to get a full nights' sleep?  Most all of us (the moms, especially) answered a resounding NO.

I may be crazy, but I think I just may be a night-shifter for life.

What about you?  Ever pulled an all-nighter?  Worked the "graveyard shift"?  What would you give up for a full nights' sleep?

8 comments:

ethelmaepotter! said...

i worked days at the Post office for 19 years, then got switched to nights. 9:30 til 6am. Now I work 4:30 pm til 1am. It's my favorite shift yet.

Although, I SURE AM READY TO RETIRE!

Rebecca Jo said...

I know I could never do it... but my mom has always been a "night timer" & always will be. Its definitely a special person that can do nursing alone - but add in working such strange hours & you have even more of my admiration :)

Shelley said...

Heather,
I worked shift work for over ten years. We rotated each month. 30 days of day shift; 30 days of 3-11; and 30 days of "graveyard" shift. Of the three, I prefer the "graveyard" shift. Simply because there wasn't so much brass around. And even though the calls were more serious on that shift, there weren't as many of them.
Plus, I like putting tin foil on my windows. It's a fashion statement :)

CaraBee said...

I used to be a bartender. I worked from 4pm-4am. It was PERFECT for me. I am a night owl. I have never had any problem sleeping during daylight hours. In fact, I generally think I sleep better then. I'm not sure how well it would work for me now, especially since my daughter is such a morning person. Much to my chagrin.

Funnily enough, I was just talking with my friend, Katie, about her own nursing career the other day, which has been temporarily put on hold while her youngest is still small. She was saying that she liked nights, too. And that when she went back to work, she definitely would do weekend nights again. Interesting stuff.

Melissa said...

I think I would do great on the night shift. Especially if I could go in after my kids were in bed! I could sleep while my kids were at school. Be up and ready to make supper by the time they got home. Hmmmm. I may be on to something if I go back to work.

By the way, I'm Melissa. I'm new to the blogging thing. It's nice to meet you.....:)

E... said...

I never pulled an all nighter in college, at least to study. Just figured if I didn't know it by 2AM, looking at it any longer wasn't going to help. Which is why I am astounded that I basically have not slept through the night in six years, and still function pretty darn well. Except when I forget to make the coffee the night before and have to clean up dog poop in the family room the same morning. Oh yes. Be jealous of my life.

Becky said...

I am a total night owl and we stick out as it is in main stream society. Mike works late, we eat dinner at 9 or 10...we all sleep till 10 or later the next day. My kids could never be in a.m. preschool or kindergarten cause of this, and there was a period in my life where I tried to adjust to {{ahem}} morning work-outs with a work out partner that KICKED my butt, and it wasn't the work out that was hard! So if it wasn't for the part where I was expected to FUCTION with no sleep like you the next day or just your 2 hour nap...( THAT i don't know how you do!) I totally could work night shift. Love the ambiance you speak of in the evening hours... (although I have been up super early on occasion and I do see why early birds love it, though I couldn't live it)

I do admire how you make it work though with the way you come home and "trick" yourself with showers and keep yourself going. I. would. die. Pretty awesome!

Honorary Indian said...

I worked nights for most of my nursing career. I'd take nights over days ANYTIME. You're right....it's just different at night....and now that this shift jibes with yiur family schedule, I say stick with it. Plus, you don't have to deal with those "doctors" at night as much (ssssshhhh! Don't tell my hubby I said that! :-).