Night Shift fades into Morning


The wheels of time seem to be rolling faster than usual around the homestead.  I have reached new levels of exhaustion.  I think at this point I need to coin a new word to describe how tired my red head is.

Working night shift has wonderful perks when you are a nurse.  First of all, administration isn’t typically around-that’s always a good thing!  Also, night shift folks operate on a whole different wave length, they are typically more laid back, and a bit more outspoken.   Patients are typically more interesting and get into more precarious situations when the sun goes down, which provides excellent entertainment as the twelve hours drudge by-oh the stories I wish I could share.  You also get the benefits of higher pay and having the day to get things done and visit with friends and family.

Working night shift has been an awesome experience, but it has come with a price.  The rest of the world doesn’t operate on night shift, at all.  In fact, for those that have never worked night shift, the complete disregard for those who do is pretty massive.  Working night shift means sleep is sacrificed on a regular basis to go to appointments, pick up children, answer phone calls, go to meetings-you get the idea.  Night shift folks walk a tightrope between sleep deprived zombie and barely functional adult.

Over the last few weeks, I have been working all night and working all day.  All work and no sleep make Laura a crazy girl (yes I know it is the Christmas season, but Halloween is my favorite holiday so please forgive The Shining reference).  Days have gone by where I get 2-4 hours of sleep a day (remember the day is my night) and sometimes that’s even the combined amount of sleep for the few days that have passed.

The past few years of sleep deprivation are ever increasingly catching up to me.  In fact, the studies of sleep deprivation’s effects on the body are pretty interesting and serious-check out this study featured on ABC HERE.

Neil’s police department works a swing shift schedule, so he works one month of day shift and then switches to one month of night shift.  The effects of swing shifts like that are extremely significant on one’s health and mood.

All this to say, that after serious consideration and discussion with Neil, I have decided to leave night shift for the time being, and also leave the emergency room.

Due to the HIPPA laws, I can’t share my day to day stories of what it is like being an ER nurse, but I can tell you this.  I have seen more in the past 5 years than most people do in a lifetime.  I have pulled dying folks from cars to provide life sustaining interventions, I have seen the torment of addiction and the slow way it decays a person’s body and mind over the years.  I have cared for the senseless, the homeless, the ignorant and the average joe.  I have watched children take their last breath and heard the piercing animalistic cries of their grieving mothers.  I have seen the violence and the brutality of the underbelly of humanity, I have been assaulted by several patients myself.  One resulting in a sucker punch to the face as I tried to help her to the bathroom so she wouldn’t fall.

As the hours fade into days and the days fade into weeks, the years of being in the trenches affects you in significant ways.  It is impossible to not be affected by the things I see.  When I clocked in for my first shift as an ER nurse I promised myself I would leave that field if I ever got to the point my heart was no longer in it and after 5 years I have arrived there.

One day I may return to the unique chaos that is the emergency room, but at this point in my career, and my life, I crave a simpler, less emotionally demanding job.  I don’t know where my nursing career will lead me just yet, but I know wherever I end up is exactly where I am supposed to be.

Until next time…



8 thoughts on “Night Shift fades into Morning

  1. Hello, I am a retired RN. I just wanted to thank you for the post. Absolutely no-one can understand how it is to be a nurse unless they have been there. I always enjoy how other nurses talk about their experiences. You did it beautifully. Thank you. What a wonderful life I had as a nurse, worked with the best people in the world and saw so many things, became so close to other human beings and learned so much. I worked in oncololgy, not the ED, but it was the best job ever! It fills your heart every day, even after the heartbreaking things happen.

  2. Not many could handle 1 year let alone 5 years. My mom was a nurse so I do know a little bit about it. She started in a state home for Downs Syndrome kids and then moved to an emergency room. After two years she had enough and spent the rest of her nursing career working in an assisted living facility. A lot of people get into nursing only to find out it’s not the career they imagined nor wanted. The one good advantage of being a nurse is that you can change jobs pretty easily since there is a big demand for nurses. My daughter is also a nurse but hasn’t been in the field long enough to get burned out where she is.

  3. after reading your story I realized how tedious some jobs are and can be, also sometimes when we show kindness to others it is reciprocated other times not but it doesn’t stop us from trying. all this to say you truly are a special and unique lady and I’m glad you have Neil.

  4. You are not only smart but wise. When you realize you no longer truly “care” it’s time to move on, not necessarily away from nursing but in a different area perhaps? ER nurses always make great cardiac rehab nurses, I like to switch areas every couple of years to allow myself to wake up! It’s hard not to burn out under that type of stress and demand you face. And the kicking, biting, cussing, spitting, and shear hatred of life itself some patients spew is easy not to miss:) The things they leave out in nursing school 🙂

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