Posted by: medicblog999 | February 6, 2009

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Its no secret to those that know me that night shifts are not my favourite shifts. Its not because of the types of jobs you tend to get, its just because I find it hard to sleep during the day, so by the second and third night shift, I’m starting to get a little tired after my 4 hours sleep each day.

What I do like about working night shifts goes back to my early days in healthcare as a nurse. I used to work 7 nights in a row, then have 7 off. My first nursing job was in an acute oncology ward in Derbyshire. Back then I was younger and could easily handle sleep deprivation (plus no kids screaming downstairs during the day). It was a busy ward, 32 beds, with only 2 side rooms. The rest were in 6 bedded bays.

I very soon started to feel comfortable during the night. I found it generally a peaceful time. Conversations were held in muted tones, talk was whispered so as not to wake the patient in the next bed, and the biggest light you would put on would be the small lamp above the bed.

I always used to feel that it was an intimate time between myself and my patients. Night times are when fears really come out. Anxiety raises its head and can make night time seem to last for ever. Pain seems worse, discomfort is more apparent and the patients thoughts can run away from them and can take them to dark places, especially on a cancer ward.

I felt privileged.

A person in their bed, is almost as vulnerable as they can possibly be. They are wearing their nightclothes, its dark and they become dependant on you when they are sick. To be able to help someone through the tough night and know that you have eased their suffering and/or anxiety is something that I will never forget and it is something that keeps dragging my thoughts back to nursing every now and then.

I love the adrenaline of going to emergencies and “saving lives” in my ambulance, but sometimes I miss being able to “nurse” people. I guess unless you are a nurse this may not make much sense, but if any nurses read this you will understand what I mean.

The sad thing is that from what I see, not many nurses actually get to provide nursing care anymore, that seems to be down to the Health Care Assistants, whilst the nurses are doing more “medical” roles.

I do still get reminders of this whilst I am working in the ambulance service. Going into someones house in the early hours of the morning to find them in bed and in pain or discomfort still provides the opportunity to make a difference. Not just by intervening and providing a treatment, but by acknowledging what a privileged position you are in and being respectful to the patient and family that are in that home.

I still talk in hushed tones when I am attending to a patient in their home during the night (unless the situation dictates otherwise). Its a different story however, once they are on the ambulance and you have to shout above the noise of the moving vehicle!

I don’t like night shifts but I like caring for patients during the night. Does that make any sense now??

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Responses

  1. I realize you wrote this a while ago but I’m just now getting caught up on your old posts and wanted to write a comment.

    I’ve been a nurse for twenty-six years and you are the first person I have heard describe what I have felt so strongly and for so long. Whether it is the long awaited birth of a first child or the last moments of a beloved grandfather’s life, we in healthcare are incredibly privileged to be “invited” to share those moments, good and bad both.

    I’ve cared for thousands as well but the one I still remember most clearly was a young father of two boys who died in my care after a severe hypoglycemic episode. He was admitted on my first night of seven and over the following week I had the honour of helping his family make that journey with him. Other nurses were disapproving when I let his wife lie in bed next to him between care and assessments, and were horrified when she and I helped those two boys give care to and not be afraid to touch their comatose dad, but I heard from her months later that those were the moments that made that time bearable for them.

    Nursing, EMS and all of the other associated fields have times when we wonder what the heck we were thinking when we chose that profession but I think as long as we have a special moment or two where we feel like we truly made a difference, our lives are richer and we are privileged more than most.

    • Very well said and very well put TBD! I love it when people recognise moments in their own career which match moments that I have had. The sad thing is that there aren’t a whole lot of us that can learn to appreciate those times and cherish them, so as to offset the many, many more times of system abuse and ungratefulness.

      Thanks for the comment!


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