Night shift woes



It took me a long time to get used to working the night shift. Outside the healthcare industry night shifts are often called the “graveyard shift.” However, in my field that’s a term best avoided. Has a tendency to make the patients a tad nervous. Or, their relatives, with the exception of those who really need to get their hands on the inheritance, and pronto!


But, I digress. The night shift is very stressful in a lot of ways. For example, patients seem to emit a lot more gas when they’re sleeping. It may be that they try to hold it in more when they are awake and I am in the room, but when they’re sleeping? Wow. All defenses are down. A patient’s room can smell like a toxic waste dump, but even less pungent and aromatic. And, if it’s the runny kind, a patient’s bed can look like the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Remember how those poor birds looked? Feel sorry for them? Well, think of me on the night shift cleaning up after some guy who has been laying in bed for a week in his hospital gown with the back open. Not pretty. And, since we’re on the topic, why do they call it a hospital “gown” anyway? That’s about the last thing I’d wear to the prom! 


Another of the stressful aspects to working the night shift—and there are hundreds—is that since these are the hardest jobs to fill, and HR lowers the hiring requirements bar is—shall we say—lowered a bit. There are approximately 600 different languages in the world, but somehow my co-workers speak in about 750 different tongues. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am open to people from all different backgrounds and cultures, but communication does become an issue, especially for someone like me, since English is my first language even though I still confuse my verbs and nouns with dangling participles. I do think, however, that even if people speak a variety of languages, their should be some common words or phrases that all of my healthcare co-workers should learn to say in English. Like, for example, “Good morning,” or “Good evening” or “The patient in Room 212 is flatlining.” It would be helpful in our roles.


I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The night shift is not for sissies. You have to have a lot of self-discipline and compassion. And a mop and bucket helps, too. They don’t call it the “graveyard shift” for nothing.