Graveyard shift: What and what not to like
10:00 pm. Duty is about to start in an hour. I lazily grab my clothes and prepare for another 8-hour duty, hoping that it wouldn’t be a toxic one. I yawn a little as I put on my comfortable scrub suit. This week’s duty rotation has seriously messed up my body clock. 10:30pm. I glance at my dark surroundings, sighing. When everybody is about to retire and turn in for the night, I put on my best smile as I am about to begin my night shift duty.
It is inevitable. Nobody wants a messed up circadian rhythm, yet every nurse has to take graveyard shift duties, once in a while. It never is easy, sleeping in the morning and waking up late so as to work in the late hours of the evening. While there are some who go in nocturnal shifts with glee, most dread it and consider it as a sacrifice.
Downsides of being in Night Shift Duties
Nocturnal owls. That’s what night shift nurses are often called, those who stay wide awake when all others in the hospital are far asleep and strolling in dreamland. These nurses, who instead of sleeping the night off in a comfortable bed, work hours trading sitting in stiff seats and doing rounds, keeping patients monitored and making sure that all their needs are catered.
Aside from altered circadian rhythms, some of the disadvantages of being a night shift duty nurse are being at high risk for accidents and sleep disorders, as well as psychological stress. This is mostly due to non-job related, daily issues and personal obligations at home which usually disrupts the supposedly night shift nurse’s “sleep hours” in the morning.
As for the circadian rhythm of nurses which are altered with this duty shift, studies and scientific evidence show that it may lead to an increase in the probability of obesity, gastrointestinal disorders and, even cancer. With circadian rhythms being altered, night shift workers tend to get less and poorer-quality of sleep because they are trying to get rest when their bodies are working to stay awake (which has something to do with sleep hormones continuously being released in the night and wake hormones in the morning).
However, no matter how we dread this duty shift, it also offers some advantages that may lead us to second thoughts with regards to our distaste for this shift. There tends to be less traffic on the road for commuting at night which can save a whole lot of time compared to commuting in the morning with all the busy morning hassles and traffic.
Being in night shift duties offer generally quieter conditions compared to day shift workers in the same positions, which is obviously because most people are asleep at this time of the night. Also, being in the night shift offers night differentials and added pay in salary.
As nurses, it is our responsibility that we understand the nature of our work before we even enter nursing school and that the need to cater patients and provide direct nursing care for emergencies shows no regard for time. We, nurses after knowing this should be able to understand why night duty shifts still continue to be necessary despite all other protests. Instead of being too whiny and continuously barking complaints, let us first reconsider certain things such as their purpose and advantages. Nursing is not just a “finish-all-the-tasks” job, it is a selfless profession, a calling. If we don’t have the perseverance and patience when it comes to simple things as mere duty shifts, what more in more serious situations like life and death? Being a nurse means you get to learn a bit of sacrifice and flexibility over time. If you don’t have these, then maybe nursing isn’t the job for you.