I worked 11p-7a right out of school. I trained on evenings (3p-11p) for a few weeks then switched to night shift. There were no day/evening shift positions at the time. I’d worked nights during school on the weekends as an aide, so it wasn’t completely new to me.
But it still completely sucked.
I sleep best at night. I like it dark and quiet. Sleeping during the day, for me, was horrible. Room darkening shades helped, but nothing much helped the noise. The majority of the world is awake during the day, and there are lots of traffic sounds, lawns to be mowed, and doorbells to be rung. At first it was kind of neat, being a full-time child of the night… but the novelty wore off quickly. Driving home in the new day’s sunlight made my brain resistant to sleep. Even if I slept 8 hours, I still woke up groggy. And trying to keep up with the rest of the world (friends who kept “normal hours”) was hard. I found myself staying home on my days off and vegging in front of the TV or computer. I gained weight by eating carbs during the day, trying to perk myself up. I used to fall asleep again when it got dark outside and have to wake up again to go to work and literally cry because I could not fathom staying up all night again.
Once I got to work, though, I was usually fine. I worked on a very busy unit and there was plenty to do to keep me occupied. After 6 months, though, I moved on to CVICU, where there were only two shifts – 12 hour days and 12 hour nights. Of course there were no day shift positions. The plus was that I’d only work 3 nights a week instead of 4 or 5. The minus was that I was no longer able to take that nap at night when it got dark. I had to get good quality sleep in during the day, which was hard for me to do. I tried to sleep for only a few hours on my days off in order to sleep that night, but that just made me groggy and again I found myself vegging on the couch instead of out and about.
I jumped at the chance when a day shift position opened up. I had been watching the job board for months, and even secretly wished that someone working days would transfer to a different unit or hospital. A few of us put in requests for it, but I managed to snag it with only a few weeks seniority over the others.
It was a different world for me from then on. Never again will I work night shift. Day shift is much different from nights with all the comings and goings, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Within a month after starting days, it was like a fog lifted from my brain. I felt so much better. I was so thankful to be able to sleep at night again. Unfortunately, one of nursing’s occupational hazards is candy and goodies brought in by family members and former patients – so the weight situation didn’t change much. Everyone knows that day shift eats all the good stuff before the night shift comes on anyway :)
What’s your story? There’s a poll up at Nursing Voices. Were you forced to work nights starting out? Did you immediately switch to days when you could, or did you discover that you liked being up at night?