Night Shift

List of common nocturnal animals:  Skunk, Badger, Raccoon, Bat, Owl, Cat, Beaver, and Nurse.

Night Nurse Vol 4 Marvel Comics

Night Nurse Vol 4 Marvel Comics

It’s true, I’ve made the list.  I’m officially a part time nocturnal creature.  I stalk the night, creeping quietly along dim lit corridors, treading lightly on wooden clogs.  My ears are alert to the sounds of my watch, my pupils the size of a Philippine Tarsiers, my blood coagulated with over brewed caffeine; these are the physical changes which signal my evolutionary adaptation that, like my fellow nocturnal brethren, give me advantages to nighttime survival.

Philippine Tarsier

Philippine Tarsier

It is not truly human to be nocturnal.  We are not born this way.  The fossil record will no doubt show how the night nurse evolved in order to circumnavigate her intrinsic circadian rhythm, and flip the switch on Mother Nature herself.

Like the grey wolf, we nurses of the night shift travel in packs; each pack leery of the other.  I belong to the ICU pack.  We’re a bit of a rough bunch, but you have to be in order to survive.  Getting through a twelve hour night shift requires certain skills not for the weak.  Our pack is smaller than the day shift, so we have to learn to do more with less, it breeds cohesiveness.

One key to survival is our food supply.  Dinner is important, but a steady supply of sugar is imperative.   4 a.m. is my breaking point.  If I don’t have a cookie and cup of coffee then there’s a good chance I might tear someone’s head off, or fall asleep at the nurses’ station.

Our risks are great working the night shift:  obesity, breast cancer, motor vehicle accidents, and excessive bitchiness.  Why?  Because we’re too fucking tired, (except for the breast cancer; I’m not quite sure what that’s all about…yet.)  Maybe our breasts are also too fucking tired, I know mine seem a little droopy by the time I get home in the morning.

Despite these risks, I carry on, skulking through the night, poking and prodding at my critically ill patients; if I’m going to have to be awake all night then so are they.

This my friends is why your loved ones are sleeping all day.

We wake their asses up every two hours to turn them, every four hours to get a temperature, every hour to check their vital signs, every two hours to check their neurological status, then there’s the pain check, pee check, poop check, skin checks, tube checks, breathing checks, and just when they look comfortable I’ll check that too.  Talk about iatrogenically induced ICU psychosis.

This is the night shift, and all for an extra $3.00/hour.  Well maybe all that extra money will help pay for my breast cancer treatments in the future.

So take care when you see us out in the daylight, like a rabid animal, you want to approach with caution.  Our cars may weave and stagger, there may be a little bit of foaming at the mouth, and a general sense of confusion on our faces.  Let us pass quietly by as we crawl into our dark dens, shutting out the light with thick paneled, black out curtains, and eye masks that read ‘do not disturb’ (and we mean it…don’t!).

When light fades to dark and the moon rises with the glowing light of a halo, it will be time for us to emerge once more, vitamin D in hand, we return to our nocturnal family where we begin yet again …the night shift!

Photo by Donna Andrews Managing Director/Bear Curator North American Bear Center

Photo by Donna Andrews Managing Director/Bear Curator North American Bear Center


5 thoughts on “Night Shift

  1. You’re sure you’re not just a werewolf? I mean, a lot of nurses are werewolves… they come out when the moon is full (usually of cheese, sometimes also pickle) and go about their duties with hairy-backs and snarling. Does that sound like you? 😉

  2. As a nurse who tackled shift changes from night to day to evening for ten years, I had hariy legs, hairy backs and lots of snarling as well.

    It is tough. 🙂

      • That is interesting shift. Once after Husband died I did four hour shifts for awhile from 11a-3p. Easy Peasy but I needed to pay the bills and had to go back to real life soon. 🙂

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