Thursday, June 21, 2012

Out With a Bang

**Disclaimer: What I'm about to blabber on about may sound self-centered and tedious.
To all my night shift friends and co-workers who read this, I love you. You're my heroes.
I realize that what for me was an exhausting week is simply the story of your everyday life.
And for that I thank you.**

Just like that, my night shift stint is over. It's been a long week of love/hate at work. My first night, I was in our upstairs (more critical) unit, and I had forgotten how much quieter night shifts are. Being upstairs was actually enjoyable as opposed to the incredibly noisy overstimulation day shift brings. Don't get me wrong, night shift historically gets the sickest admits, but the routine care is so much easier without an extra 100 people roaming through the unit (residents, med students, specialists, ultrasound/x-ray/dietary techs, audiologists, and families coming in with their cranky toddlers and 12 closest friends all at once). If I go home overstimulated at the end of the day, I can't imagine how the babies have to learn to live with it. But this week was a nice to remember that sometimes they do still get a quiet(er) night to sleep more.

It was so wonderful to have time to snuggle babies without worrying about the noise and lights overwhelming them. It reminded me of why I fell in love with this job in the first place. The following nights, I had a sicker baby but even then, it was SO wonderful to actually care for him instead of feeling like a puppet for 12 hours. On night shift, it's just the RNs and nurse practitioners. Decisions are quick and to-the-point. On day shift, with residents in charge of half of our patients, simple orders take hours to execute. Night shift makes me truly proud to be a nurse and put my critical thinking into play (of course, never at the expense of the baby. I'm not doing things that I don't have authority to do. It's just nice to report to one 'boss' instead of five different ones.)

Iced coffee with rice milk + gluten-free scone from Mud Pie to kick of my first all-nighter in two years. Totally necessary.
As for staying awake all night. On the one hand, I'm in awe of the resiliency of the human body. I only napped for two hours before my first shift, but I was able to stay awake all night, no problem. Thanks largely in part to the awesome night shift staff (they truly love working with each other and being at work feels like a party sometimes). And caffeine. Always caffeine. I don't drink it on a regular basis, so it makes me really happy when I do.

On the other hand, I'm shocked at the immediate physical rebellion to a flipped schedule. I figured it would take at least a week to set in, but even when I got home in broad daylight after getting far too little sleep in a 24 hour period, my body resisted going to sleep while it was light out.

Sunrise from the 5th floor
I'm also surprised at how quickly my mindset changed. I truly wasn't expect it to be so quick and drasitc, but 2 days into this new schedule, my "woe is me" mindset was back in full force, the glass was always half-empty, and I would only think self-defeating thoughts. It's given me a newfound compassion for myself during those difficult transition times when I worked night shift before.

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I got 9 hours of sleep in 3 days thanks to daytime doctor's appointments cutting into my nap time (speaking of doctors, my ENT is impressed that I lift weights and know how to do a clean and jerk. He's not so impressed that I smacked my nose on the bar a few weeks ago). Anyway, I was more than happy to fall into bed Tuesday night and get a solid 9 hours! But that means I was bright eyed and bushy tailed Wednesday and felt no need to take a nap. I finally did get 2 hours of shut-eye from 4-6pm. It's so crazy that I wouldn't dream of going to work a day shift on 2 hours of sleep, but on night shift, it's normal.

I'm officially sick of iced coffee.
Ummm obviously I've written this post on 2 hours of sleep. It's cloudy here and I have evening plans, so I'm going to try to sneak a nap in but avoid crossing that fine line where I'm too rested to fall asleep tonight. Moral of the story: day shift is ridiculously busy and overcrowded, but I still prefer the normal schedule for my life outside of work. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to stay on nights a few more weeks. The calm! The quiet! But then I remind myself that day shift means sleep!

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