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??