Basically, I like to tell people that there are ten things I love about working nights and 1 thing I hate about working nights. You have to decide what's more important, the 10 good things or the one bad.
The ten good are bsically all the opposites of the list I made in my last post, "Reasons I do not want to work days." The good are as follows
- no bosses
- no doctors and few new doctor orders
- you can do what you want in your down time
- you don't have to work around meals
- you can park wherever you want
- you don't have to work around ancillary services like X-ray and physical therapy
- patients are usually sleeping
- all the snobby nurses work days
- Charts and computers are easily accessable
- We have fun on nights
The one thing I hate about working nights:
- Lack of sleep or being tired all the time
To me, the 10 good things are more important to the one bad.
I guess what it comes down to is that there are things that I place as more important to me than getting a good nights sleep. For one thing, since I work at a small town hospital, there are times when it is not real busy. During these down times, during the day, there is no place to hide. I hate that.
I walk over to the nurses station and I can't even get to a chart or a computer because there are so many people there. Then you go to do your treatments, and the patients are eating. So, now you have nothing to do. So, do you go back to the department and hang out with the administrators and the RT bosses.
I have no problem hanging out with these folks, it's just that once the initial conversation is over, what do I do? I most certainly don't want to sit there and read a book, or play on the Internet when all the bosses are around. It's not that I think they would care that I do that stuff, it just wouldn't seem right to be playing when the bosses are working so hard. I think this has something to do with my work ethic more than anything.
So, I wander the hospital looking for things to do. On nights, I never have that problem. On nights when it's slow, I can play on the Internet or read a book. I can socialize if I want to, or I can hide out in the waiting room and watch TV. During the day, you wouldn't dare hang out in the waiting rooms.
To me, what I do during my down time is much more important than how much sleep I get. I would rather be tired when I work than spend my whole morning trying to decide what I'm going to do to entertain myself.
That in mind, how do I sleep? Well, that's easy when I work. If I work, I go home at 7:30 a.m. and by 8:30 I am in bed. I usually sleep until I get up. Never do I set an alarm to wake me up, I just sleep until I naturally get up. And that in itself is an advantage to working nights.
When you work days, you get home from work and you stay up until about 10 or 11. Then you go to bed and set the alarm so you HAVE to get up by at least 6:00. When you work days you can't sleep until you naturally get up. I hate that. In that sense, working nights is much better.
In fact, I actually feel that I sleep better when I work nights than when I work days.
So, how do I manage sleep on days off? On my first day off, I go home at 7:30 and hopefully I'm in bed by 8:30 or 9:00, depending on whether I have to get the kids to school or not. Then I sleep until I get up, which on my days off is usually any time between 12:30 and 3. I usually don't sleep as long as when I work, because I like to be tired when it's time for bed at night.
Then, I go to bed when my wife does, which is usually around 11:00 and I hope I sleep. Usually I find myself getting up at 2 or 4 in the morning the first few nights. Usually, it takes 3-4 days to adjust. But I don't care. Remember I made the decision I'd rather be a little tired all the time than have to hide when I'm working. I'd rather be a little tired and be allowed to do what I want during down times.
The catch here is that you want to make sure you don't have some crazy schedule where you work one on one off one on one off two on three off three on two off one on one off. Those kind of schedule don't work well for night shift workers. Ideally, you want to work a bunch of days on and have a bunch of days off.
The reason I say this, is that 1st day off is pretty much a recovery day. You are exhausted that day so you can sleep during the night so you can sleep normal the rest of your days off. So, if you only have one night off, it's pretty much a wasted day off. This is something that the person doing the scheduling must understand, so he or she can have empathy for the nocturnal workers.
If, on the other hand, that scheduler has never worked nights, or has no empathy, then you might get stuck with a crappy schedule. I, on the other hand, have an awesome schedule. I work a bunch of days in a row, but never more than five in a row (because working too many days in a row stinks too). Then my days off come in bunches.
I don't know about other night shifters, but usually it takes me about three days to get back to a normal day schedule. So if the last night I work is Friday night, by Tuesday I feel normal enough to get some work done around the house. Before that time, I'm lazy. I sit around playing Madden 2009 with my son. I play on the Internet. Overall, I'm not social at all. In fact, I suppose I'm rather boring on first three days off.
Now, before I worked at Shoreline I used to work at a larger hospital in the big city, and during the night there were also down times. It's funny, but during this down time we would pull chairs together and take naps.
My point is, no matter where you work, working nights is far more enjoyable than working days -- in my humble opinion.