Saturday, March 28, 2009

On the Night Shift

last week i pulled my first three (in a row!) night shifts at the hospital.  like everyone else i was nervous enough to crap my scrub pants at least a little bit, but my preceptor--the nurse i'm shadowing--is happily competent, chill, and pleasant.  and sassy. 

what is it like to work the night shift?  there's a flurry of activity at the beginning--doctors, residents, interns clearing out for the day, nurses giving report, visitors peacing out, handing out medications.  things are pretty busy until about 11:30 and suddenly it's dead quiet and there is nothing going on.  everyone settles at a computer, charts, then the lights go out and there is nothing to do until 4 am.  there's another flurry of activity between 5-7 where we wake up patients, give the ones that need bathing baths, give more medications, and the change of shift happens again.  

since working nights my perception of simple things: lunch, sleep, errands have been kind of turned upside on their head.  i take breaks to eat at 3 am, but should i be?  i'm happy when i get to bed by 8:30 am. when i wake up, it's light out but it's 4 pm.  it's kind of a bizzarre existence to live.  and what am i supposed to do when i'm not working?  do i try to fix my sleep schedule so that i can live like day person instead of hedwig the owl?  and does that mean i have to stay awake for 36 hours in order to reset my clock?  how is working nights conducive to having a social life or a family life?  i'm sure people do it, i'm just not sure how. 

anyway, all this and more have been my life of late.  i work, come home, eat something, and then pass out, only to wakeup 7 hours later and do it again.  i am a working, eating, sleeping blob.  

anyway my first night generated lots of random observations, so without further ado, here they are:

1) there sure are a lot more blood pressure machines available at night time.  where do they go during the day?
2) cleaning up patient poo has really turned me off to the smell of it.  not that i was really turned on by it before, but where the smell didn't use to bother me, now it REALLY bothers me. and i've become more paranoid about smelling like poo now. 
3) one should never wear a thong for a 12 hour shift of anything, but especially not nursing.  and i am obviously not speaking from personal experience. 
4) is eating "lunch" at 3 am, even if you haven't had anything to eat since 6 pm, going to make me fat?  
5) working the night shift is like joining a secret club.  no one else really understands what goes down at night time, and you share a special bond with the people who work with you during this time.  
6) i am thankful for friends who work on my floor.  and for new friends in my program that i previously have not had the honor of knowing who also work on the floor.  and i'm thankful that my close friends are there to take "lunch" with me and are all for bitch-festing.  
7) when patients have a lot of phlegm and can't clear it, i suddenly develop an urge to clear my own throat, even if there's nothing in there. 
8) night shift is way more chill.  there hasn't been a night i've worked where my preceptor hasn't been on fb.  sometimes she also brings a magazine or listens to music. and i get a lot of downtime to work on my school assignments. 
9) there is a girl who is also a student who sometimes works the same time i do.  Lord help me if she talks to me again.  i'm going to wring her throat so she'll stop making noise. 
10) i love old people who still have it together.  they like squeezing and patting my hand and are generally adorable. 
11) there are hella filipino nurses in at this hospital.  i mean in new york. i mean in AMERICA. good thing i fit right in. 
12) the MDs who work here are scarce.  they are either hidey holing in their lounge or off doing more important things.  when they ARE here, they act like Jesus Christ, savior of 6GS and it's annoying.
13) the thing i've noticed about working nights is that i'm usually not outwardly sleepy, but my brain spaces out way more than usual.  so my eyes will be open, but glassy. like dead dobby, but i'm not dead. or a house-elf. 
14) hospitals are dirty, dirty places.  i mean you'd think it should be pristine, but i hesitate to even pee in the bathrooms here.  they are really gross.  it's a miracle that most patients don't come out with more diseases than they came in with (although they sometimes do). 

i work another triple nighter next week, and perhaps my my idea of working nights will change. we'll see.

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