Monday, February 16, 2009

swing shift

There are all kinds of different shifts at my job, but for the most part they're either day shifts or night shifts. 7-7 is the standard in nursing - either 7 am to 7 pm or vice versa - but the ER runs more varied shifts than the regular floor. There are noon to midnights shifts, 3 pm to 3 am shifts and so on. Whatever your internal clock, there's a shift for you.

I have always worked the day shift, if not always the 7 am to 7 pm, at least close. I don't do nights very well, and would never willingly choose to work nights. This is unfortunate, because most hospitals pay a huge shift differential for nights, but the way I look at it is that if I get fired for falling asleep on the job or accidentally killing someone, the shift differential won't make much difference anyway.

Night shift has always fascinated me, though - in terms of sheer logistics. Do they always sleep during the day and stay up all night? Even on their days off? Or do they switch back to a "normal" schedule as soon as they have a day off? Different people do it different ways, but I'm always curious how they make it work.

But even though they may work all night, one of the things about nursing is that you tend to work the same shift all the time. It used to be that they would have to rotate between days and nights, but not anymore. If you're hired for days, you stay on days. Same for nights. Some of the PRN people may go back and forth, but that's their choice, not a demand. In a situation like this, it seems to me, it being your choice and not foisted on you would be huge.

The doctors, however, don't have this option. They work all different shifts on a regular basis. And this is what made me think of this today. One of our docs worked all day Saturday with us, but then came back to start his Sunday shift a few hours before we all went home for the day. So he worked roughly 8 am to 8 pm Saturday and then came back Sunday at 5 pm for a twelve hour shift. They basically self- schedule, so he did this to himself, but still. When do you sleep on that schedule? If you sleep normally Saturday night then you'll end up having a 24+ hour day on Sunday. How do you skew that schedule so you don't fall over mid-shift? It really intrigues me, being that I turn into a pumpkin at midnight no matter what fun thing may be around the corner. (Or as fun as you can get at work, anyway).

Anybody out there worked night shifts? Swing shift? Any variation on the above? And if so, how did you manage it? Fill me in. Because I just can't imagine.


ped crossing said...

I loved swing shift. It is perfect for the night owl. I used to work 3-11. Then I would stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning and sleep in until 10 or 11. I would choose that schedule now, except it doesn't work with kids or teaching.

Maggie May said...

It would be murder to work a night shift. I think it is very unhealthy to a person's body and lifestyle but we must all be very grateful to the ones who do this awkward shift. Otherwise we would all of us be in a mess if everyone thought like me.

laurie said...

i used to work nights on the copy desk at the paper--4 p.m. to 1 a.m. i loved it--i got up around 10 and had most of the day to myself before going to work. i'd go cross country skiing, or run all my errands at a time of day when nobody else was in the stores.

i liked driving home at 1 a.m., nobody else on the roads..

i don't think i could do that shift now, though. i've been a daysider for too long. the shift would be hard.

friends like PMiller, though, have been nightsiders all their lives, and when we switched her to days a couple of years ago she couldn't cope. so now she's back on nights.

Not Jenny said...

I used to work rotating shifts at a hospital (I was an LPN). On the morning of my last night I would collapse into bed and snooze until 2 or 3 in the afternoon,never later. I would then stagger out of bed, make coffee and sit on my bum like a lump until "normal" bedtime and then go to bed and toss and turn. By my second day off I was back to sleeping at night. I felt like a zombie on my stretches of nights. There are some good points--you mentioned shift differential, there was a slightly slower pace, no bosses to be bossy, and small bits of downtime (I read Tarot cards for my coworkers on night shifts, potluck pigouts. When I had kids, nights were horrid. I had to wake up AND be nice to them??? I much prefer the day shift, 12 hours if at all possible. But, I gave up my license to raise babies and don't see myself returning to that life for a very long time, if at all. I was a good nurse, but I burned out after 9 years.

Rudee said...

I work afternoons M-F, 4PM to 12AM. I like it, but my kids are grown. It would be an awful shift if they weren't. My home is also my office and some days, I field calls the entire shift without having to leave the house. When I worked 7PM to 7AM, I was not a well rested person. I'd go to bed at 8AM, sleep until 2PM and work my way through life in a zombie-like state. Midnights was hard-don't be swayed by the shift diff. You can make up for that by pulling the occasional extra shift.

Devon said...

I used to work 7p to 7a and never adjusted, I could never sleep past noon. I just remember walking around like a zombie.

I quit that shift as soon as a 12 hour day shift opened. One afternoon the nurse manager in the ICU I was working in called for a 12 hour night shift, overtime. I said no and she begged for 10 minutes. Long story short, I caved, worked the shift, then fell asleep driving home, totalled my car and had to have my hand pinned back together.

She never asked me to work nights again!

distracted by shiny objects said...

Back in the day when there were 8 hr shifts and I did not have children I would work 7am-3:30pm then come back for a 11pm-7am shift. Worked for me cause I could get about 4-5 hrs of sleep and I'd get the same patients back. With 12hr shifts it's harder to switch back and forth. The only thing I have found that works is Melatonin. And feeling like zombie who also just happens to be an idiot when I switch back to days. I find it incredibly difficult.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

In the newspaper world, there are all kinds of shifts too. When I started out, there were still afternoon papers, which required getting to work about 4-5 a.m. I would come home and nap briefly, go out drinking with my colleagues and be tucked up in bed by 9 p.m. When I worked the all-night shift (it was supposed to be 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., but I found myself coming in between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.), I would sleep in the day or try to. The world is not made for night shift workers. I hated it, my health suffered, and I lasted 10 months. It didn't help that on the weekends, the shift moved to 4 p.m.-midnight. The best shift was 4p.m.-midnight. We could always make the bar just before closing too. I would sleep 1-9 a.m. and have the whole day to play. Fantastic.

LadyHeather said...

While I have never had a job in nursing, I did used to be one of the managers at Perkins running both the dinner and grave shifts. It really messed with my sleep schedule because during the week I would get off of work at midnight and get to bed about 2am and then because I was so tired, I would wake up around 2 the next day to be at work by 3pm. Sundays were the worse because I worked 9pm Saturday until 7am Sunday and then came back to work 5pm - 11pm. Luckily I have a nice office job now working 8-5. It's nice waking up with the sun as opposed to going to bed when it is coming up. I got a lot crap for being a "vampire" while working there. It didn't help that I have red hair and most myths believe that vampires are redheads.