Hello, my lovely readers 🙂 I thought that I’d share a bit about my life and how I’m adjusting to working nights. I know that not many of you have experience working nights in an Emergency Room. While I can’t share specifics, I can share a little of what life’s been like on a graveyard shift.
When we first moved here I was willing to work anything so long as it meant being in the ER. Naturally, the only thing available was a night shift. I was hired to work 12 hour shifts which in theory meant having 4 days off each week. However, most ERs have a high rate of staff turnover. This is due to a couple of factors – it’s fast paced, high stress, and requires a fairly independent personality. Translation? I work a lot of overtime. Sometimes I only have 1 day off before heading back to work.
Finding balance has taken effort and required a re-evaluation of my priorities. I was used to having a clean, organized home. Laundry and dishes were always done. I worked out faithfully 5 days a week. Meals were made with a flourish, and I loved to get creative in the kitchen.
Nowadays our house is cluttered. The kitchen counters are not always clean, dishes are in the sink, and while laundry gets done, it doesn’t get folded right away. I have to give myself pep talks before making dinner. I no longer cook 5 nights a week – I cook 1 night a week but make 5 meals. Yeesh. And working out? That’s squeezed in the midst of everything else, if I’m lucky.
Oddly enough, I’ve not been gaining any weight. In fact, I think that I’m still losing, although I haven’t been on a scale in the last month. I call it the “I’m too busy to eat more than once a day” diet. You might think I’m joking, but I’m not. I don’t eat before work because I hate running on a full stomach (and in the ER, you’re practically running all shift). I don’t eat on shift because I have no appetite, although I do consume large quantities of water. You get dehydrated from all the running. I eat when I get home and wash off. Casserole, soup, chili, salad, leftovers… I usually eat a small amount of whatever is in the fridge. This is another reason why I make sure to cook on my days off: I hate having to eat frozen convenience foods, and I like to have something healthy on hand.
I’m not complaining. It was an adjustment, but I’m glad to have a job. I enjoy working in the Emergency Room. While most units in a hospital are at their slowest during the night, it’s the busiest time for the ER. I think that everyone has room to learn and I’m no exception to that, but I’m also good at what I do. I thrive in the hectic, frenetic pace. I love that there’s always something to be done, and I love the level of independence that’s required. I meet and interact with so many different types of people from just about every walk of life, religion, and social strata. I meet people from all over the world. I get to use my Spanish! My world has become a much broader, more interesting place as a result of what I do for a living.
There are downsides, of course. Even when you have a day off, you don’t truly have a “day” off. I wake up in the late afternoon, cram in some shopping, make some dinners, go to the optometrist or stylist or doctor or mechanic or whoever, and that’s it for the sunlight hours. I don’t go out as much. My co-workers have become my social sphere. Thank goodness we get along. I finally met some of Chris’ colleagues a few weeks back and they jokingly told me that they were beginning to think that he’d made me up, that I was “too good to be true”. How sad! I’d love to be able to go out to dinners and department parties, but I rarely have time.
Chris understands. You can be pretty flexible when you set your own hours. He tries to be home when I wake up (between 3 – 4pm), see me off to work at twenty to six, then head back to the office. I usually talk to him for a bit before falling asleep in the mornings, which is just when he’s waking up. We’ve found a way to make it work, and in retrospect, I think that this has been one of the best years of our marriage. Oh, not that the other years were bad – it’s just that the longer we’re together, the more we learn about each other and the more flexible we become. You might say that we’re getting better with age 😉
I’m finding my balance. Of course just about the time that I really feel that my feet are under me, they’ll be swept out again and we’ll move to another part of the world. I’ll have to start over. I don’t anticipate that my schedule will be like this in NZ. From what I understand, shifts are required to be on a rotation. Healthcare in NZ is overseen by the government, and they’re pretty strict about overtime, so I’m likely see a decrease in hours compared to what I’m currently working. Thank goodness. I’d rather have time to live my life instead of working it away, even if it means forgoing some of the “finer” things that could be afforded with OT bonuses. I’m happy to live without some of the fancy accoutrements if it means that I get to spend more time with family.
In the meantime, you can find me working away in one of our local ERs between the hours of 6pm – 6:30am. I’ll be the nurse carrying the liter bottle of water and wearing her blonde hair high up in a ponytail.
Please don’t take this the wrong way when I say that I hope never to see you there!