Shi(f)t Work

Wanderer over at Lost on the Floor makes a point:

My manager remarked to me that night-shifters tend to, “have a bit of chip on our shoulders, almost like the world owes you something.” Damn right I do. I’m up when most sane and rational people are asleep. I sleep when the rest of the world is doing there thing. If someone is loud, obnoxious when day shift sleeps, they can call the cops. Me? I’m outta luck.

So yes, I have a chip about it. The world wants 24-7 care, a 24-7 society, but does little to accommodate it. One of these needs has to give. Soon.

I don’t do much shift any more, but I just came off three 12 hour nights, and I am whacked, even with the strictly-not-sanctioned-nor-endorsed-by-management two-hour naps breaks taken in the so-called dead hours between 0200 and 0600. So I get it. One of my colleagues, whom the nursing gods have blessed with a D/E line and who probably has not worked past 2300 in ten years, constantly gripes about the night shift nap “perk.” She believes strongly — and will tell anyone in earshot — that the night crew, instead of taking their naps, ought to be doing all the scut work which never seems to be completed on days. Because they’re all lazy and worthless louts, et cetera.

Uh, no. And yeah, the world does owe shift workers something, even it’s the two-hour naps which in any case often can’t be taken because of patient acuity. There’s pretty good evidence that links shift work cardiovascular disease (among other afflictions), not to mention the obvious safety hazard of driving home bleary-eyed. Two hour naps, when you think about it, are pretty poor compensation for decreased life expectancy. And then there’s the usual disruptions to family and social life, sleeping patterns and the general feeling of malaise shift work brings. Obviously shift workers are cranky, and for good reason

So before complaining about the inadequacy/relative worth/attitude of the night shift, shut up. No, really. Shut up.



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  1. #1 by Joni Watson on Tuesday 02 August 2011 - 1343

    Yep! I’m a former night-shifter myself. My whole world used to revolve around sleep…when was I going to get it, for how long, should I stay up after my last shift, should I take a nap before my first shift, tell the repair man to come after 3PM, and on and on.

    I love night-shifters, and I do think they frequently get the short end of the stick.

  2. #2 by Zoe on Tuesday 02 August 2011 - 1951

    Amen, sister!

    I remember explaining to the fireplace serviceman, in excruciating detail why he needed to come either 1st thing in the a.m. or after 4pm, and nothing in between. His answer, “Well, it’s only gonna take a few minutes. How about noon?” Similar story with things like the mechanic. And trying to sleep after nights while 2 neighbours get new roofs on their houses. Not a lot of sleep happening that day.

  3. #3 by Sean on Tuesday 02 August 2011 - 2139

    I know the feeling. I worked nights for a number of years, as well as the hopscotching. It wreaks havoc on everything and anything. Blinking becomes a challenge.
    My hats off to anyone who can and does it.

  4. #4 by shrtstormtrooper on Wednesday 03 August 2011 - 0827

  5. #5 by Raquel on Thursday 04 August 2011 - 0952

    Absolutely right.
    I think US hospitals need to let our nurses take naps too!

  6. #6 by Wanderer on Thursday 04 August 2011 - 2246

    2 hour nap?! Where do I sign?
    It’s probably like our break/lunch, there but rarely do we get to take it. Thanks for the mention!

    • #7 by torontoemerg on Monday 08 August 2011 - 1040

      Many/most Toronto EDs. The benefits are probably way better too.

  7. #8 by Maha on Friday 05 August 2011 - 0311

    Can I just forward this to everyone who gets pissed at me when i refuse to come out for brunch after a sting of nights??

  8. #9 by CC on Sunday 07 August 2011 - 0817

    I worked 20 years of straight night shifts. Wasn’t too bad. People who don’t work nites don’t seem to understand, that’s for sure.

    There seems to exist more tolerance/understanding at hospitals that have nurses working DD/NN (most Canadian hospitals) rather than only one shift (most american hospitals). When you have to walk a mile in your co-worker’s moccasins…..

    I observed less problem with this in the hospitals that demanded switching back and forth between N and D.

    Anyone who complains about the “previous shift” and what they do and don’t do….should be forced to work that shift for a couple months.

  9. #11 by CC on Sunday 07 August 2011 - 0818

    and btw, I have never had a 2 hr nap at work!……don’t know what unit you would work on to get that!!!

  10. #12 by isntshelovlei on Tuesday 09 August 2011 - 0316

    Amen. I’ve been on strictly nights since last November. And honestly, I don’t think I’d switch to day shift if they offered it to me. Long live the nightshifter.

  11. #13 by grass fed beef manitoba on Saturday 05 May 2012 - 1825

    Your physical repair is 10-2am and your neurological is 2-6am. You can’t change this. Not going to bed on time will destroy your health. There is nothing you can do about this other then get a new job or reduce night shift hours. Even the FDA sees the night shift as carcinogenic

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