Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Night Shift

When I started working at the hospital, I would occasionally get the question "What do they need a secretary on night shift?  Don't the patients just sleep all night?"

Well, to answer your question, they need a secretary to make the teams even for when the staff plays games all night.

Because what else is there to do when all the patients are sleeping sweetly in their beds?

(My co-workers, my sister who is an incredible RN on nights, and my many friends who work those grueling hours, are all imaging me being tortured for that comment right now :-) 

They all know that the patients are never sweetly sleeping. 


Night shift is when a nurse, quiet and shy by nature, will take on a doctor on the phone and insist that a critically ill patient needs transferred. Immediately. And not taking no for an answer.   

Night shift is when an assistant will sit by a patient who has been fighting violently for days and hold both of his hands so he feels secure enough to sleep.  And will do this is a darkened room, bent over the bed for hours, forgetting the cramps in his back and his exhaustion.  Just so the patient can rest. 

Night shift is when a nurse knows they will get chewed out by a doctor for waking him for the third time that night, but will call anyhow for the best interest of the patient. 

Night shift is when an assistant will sit with a patient who has coded, but isn't to be resuscitated, and stay with them while they pass because family hasn't made it in time and no one should go alone.  

Night shift is when some dementia patients go from sweetly confused to violent and we must do our best to keep them calm. 

Night shift is supporting each other after an unexpected death.  Only to turn around and rally together minutes later to help another patient who is close to coding. 

Night shift is seeing the weariness in the nurse's eyes while she is running from one patient to the next because the both are on the verge of coding and trying to get a doctor to take her seriously.

Night shift is when you have to work an extra hour during the falling back of the clocks.  And it always happens on the worst night of the week. 

Night shift is celebrating the New Year together and hardly noticing the clock striking midnight because you are too busy. 

Night shift is when the secretary gets to use her mean mom voice to leave firm messages for doctors to 'please call back now'.  (Yes, that was me.  And I have an excellent, well-rehearsed mean mom voice:-) 

Night shift is when I got to hold a patient's hand while he was scared of his blood draw. 

Night shift means you get to celebrate surviving another weekend together by going out to Monday morning pancakes. 

Night shift is when some of the doctors who are absolutely hysterical and fun to be with come in for rounds.  

Night shift is when I had the chance to sit with a sweet elderly gentleman who was so confused. He knew where he was, but he didn't know why.  He was scared and he couldn't rest. 

It was night shift when I got to sit by his bed and hold his hand to make him feel safe.  

It was night shift when he was so confused and I didn't know what to do.  So I looked him right in the face and smiled as big as I could and said give me a smile.  And he did, falling asleep with a peaceful smile on his face.  

Night shift is when you can do the littlest things that mean the biggest.   

This is for all my wonderful night shift co-workers.  Its been amazing to see such a wonderful group of people lay their differences aside and work like a machine.  Jumping in to help the other, knowing what to do for your co-worker before they even ask.  


I don't know what the future has for me.  I don't know how long I will be there.  But I want to thank my night-shift co-workers for making me feel like I am one of them, even though I'm not a nurse. 
(I'm even thankful for the co-workers who mock me and imitate every word I say with an Irish accent.  Because of them, I can still answer a phone somewhat professionally while busting a gut laughing) Who else can add that to a list of their skills? 

Do me a favor?  Next time you meet someone who works at a hospital on nights, don't ask them what they do all night...tell them thank-you for doing one of the hardest jobs there is.   

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