Nursing…..After Dark

Oh the night shift! Many never venture into this extreme and peculiar type of nursing. Do you know what it’s like… to work in the night?

1. The 3 O’clock Brain Block: If you’ve worked night shifts, you know what I’m talking about here. Right around halfway through the night, your brain forces you to become a lumbering, sluggish Frankenstein. It’s one of the worst feelings ever, a fight to stay alert and stifle your body’s desperate cries for sleep. I am really dramatizing this… because it sucks!

2. Night Hunger: Work a night shift and you will get the munchies! You’ll feel like devouring a fourth meal for the day. It’s weird, but it happens. Don’t eat too much though. It can make you even sleepier, leading to a downward spiral of food and fatigue. Don’t forget about the patients too – The ones who can’t sleep share this nocturnal hunger as well.

3. Audits, Audits, Audits: Tons of stuff slips through the cracks every day. Charting is missed, eMars aren’t filled, and things aren’t signed. Not to mention making sure of quality control, fridge\freezer temperatures, and keeping everything stocked. All this falls onto the night shift!

4. Skeleton Staff: It’s obvious that night shift has the lowest number of staff and the highest nurse to patient ratio. Most of the time, it works fine. Sometimes, though, it puts you in time management hell. Some smaller units might have only one nurse on the floor!

5. Paranormal Activity: Ask some of the long-time night shifters where you work if they’ve seen anything weird or ghostly happen. You might get an earful. A lot of people pass away in hospitals and nursing homes – In fact, I can’t think of anywhere else that houses so many people near the end of their lives. So if this paranormal stuff is true, wouldn’t it make sense for it to happen here? Less people around, the lights are dimmed… I have a baaad feeling about this.

6. Stalking & Sneaking: To make things worse, ghosts aren’t the only thing you have to worry about. Staff are just as sneaky. We can’t help that the protocols force us to take vital signs, check blood sugars, and do precautionary rounds all through the night. Many a patient has startled awake to my silhouette in the doorway, creepily watching them sleep. Sorry, gotta make sure you’re breathing.

7. Downtimes: I’m talking about electronic downtimes. The people who run your documentation software always like to conduct scheduled maintenance at night so it affects less people. Problem is, there are still people there: the night shift. Once you’re used to documenting on your software, having to dig up that paperwork is a real pain.

8. Lunar Astrology: Does the full moon affect behavior? Ask the night shift. You might get differing opinions, but you’ll just have to find out yourself. Next time your night shift starts sounding like Where The Wild Things Are, peek out the window. If you dare.

Whew! The sun’s up. Hope that wasn’t too bad! Night shifters, what do you think? What are some things you have to deal with that most nurses don’t?

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