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Working Off the Shift

Working Off the Shift

Wellness Nurses

February 01, 2011

Corporate America for the most part designates Monday through Friday from the hours of 8 to 5 as the normal work week. How is that different in the world of nursing? Well, for nursing managers and administration – it’s not. But the nursing world uses 8 hour and 12 hour shifts spread over 24 hours/7 days per week. Technically, a nurse could work during the week only, and have the weekends available or free as most of working America does. How does this differ from the nurse who works not only every weekend, but works nights as well? Many hospitals employee nurses who work only weekends shifts. I am one of those nurses.

There are many differences in my schedule compared to corporate American and it requires creative adjustments. First, I am off work when the majority of the world is working and I am working when the majority of the world is playing. This is good and bad.

I work 12hour night shifts, three in a row. Most of the time I get comments like, “cool, you get 4 days off per week.” Well, yes and no. Yes, I technically only work three nights per week. Think about this very carefully, though. I sleep late on Fridays so I can work all night long and stay awake. Fridays turn out for me to not be very productive. My last shift ends around 7:15 AM on Monday mornings. I find because I have worked three 12 hour shifts in a row, I am very tired by this time. It would be great if I could sleep two or three hours and get up to have the rest of the day free. This doesn’t happen for me.

Mondays are usually my best day to sleep, and I wake up about four in the afternoon. For some reason, I am usually able to go back to sleep around 11:00 PM, but then I awaken around 4:00 AM on Tuesday morning. So Monday’s are pretty much a wasted day for me as well. On Tuesday I call this my “stupid” day because I am trying to adjust from nights to days and I am just a little “off” on this day. I start feeling more normal on Wednesday and by Thursday I am feeling really good and productive.

Another difference with my schedule when compared to most others is most social functions occur on the weekend. At first people invite you anyway to functions because they don’t want to leave you out. You eventually drop off the invite radar for most people. This is not a negative thing for me on the most part, it is just a difference.

Family times become very creative. My husband doesn’t get home from work on Friday until I have already left for work. He also works on Saturday and I don’t see him that day, either. On Sundays we sometimes plan a cookout or get together where the kids come over. By the time I sleep and get ready for work we are able to plan a two-hour get together. We now need to figure in my daughter’s schedule. She is now a nurse and works 12-hour days. She often works on Sunday, so this has changed Sunday functions a little. We now schedule some family functions on Tuesday nights.

There are benefits for the schedule I currently hold. One great benefit is the extra pay. Most weekend option nurses are paid extra for the inconvenience of giving up every weekend. This is a great benefit until you get used to the money, and realize you can’t get that kind of money by switching over to a weekday nurse position. It may be hard for some nurses to give that up.

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