Nursing Voices

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Exhaustion Around the Clock

Excuse me nurse, but did you forget to do something this morning before you came into work? At least she remembered to put on her cap. Our pretty nurse isn't making a fashion statement, she just didn't get enough sleep last night. If you look closely, you will see that she is walking around in a daze. She can’t focus on the thermometer that she’s holding, and she looks like she wants to take a nap. Thank goodness she doesn’t have to iron her underwear. That way she can catch a couple of more minutes of sleep.

There are a lot of reasons why nurses don’t get enough sleep, but I think one of the biggest reasons is related to shift work. I once worked at a hospital that constantly made nurses work day, evening, and night shift all within a two-week rotation. None of us knew if we were coming or going, and there wasn’t enough caffeine on the planet that could keep us awake. Then we went home and we couldn't sleep. I became very sick and I quit my job for the sake of my health. Reasonable people understand that making nurses work like this isn’t good for anyone, but many hospitals still expect nurses to work swing shifts. One of my good friends gave his boss a note from his doctor explaining why he couldn’t work swing shifts. My friend developed a sleeping disorder and started suffering from terrible headaches, so he wanted to work a steady shift. He thought his boss would understand, but instead of receiving support from his boss, he received a bunch of crap. His boss didn’t believe him. She accused him of lying to his doctor in order to obtain his “bogus note,” and she drilled him about his medical condition. She also demanded that he sign a release of information form so she could personally review his medical records. I won’t tell you what he said in response. Just use your imagination. Things aren't going to get any better until nurses refuse to take abuse.

It doesn’t look like our lingerie nurse shops at Victoria’s Secret. Maybe she can get some fashion tips from an angel after she gets some sleep.


Blogger The People History said...

My wife is a nurse and 12 hour nights just make for misery for her

8:19 PM  
Blogger wetnurse said...

When I worked in Critical Care, it wasn't unusual for me to work all three shifts in a one-week period. A couple of times I even did it in a 3 day period. It's a miracle that I didn't make any life-threatening errors.

I know that before you become a boss, you have to give up your common sense, but it seems like you have to renounce your humanity as well.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Ugh! We need to get this problem corrected! Sleep is very important and these swing shifts are not conductive to that, or patient health!

5:19 AM  
Blogger pixelrn said...

I think I've had anxiety dreams where I show up for work dressed like the nurse in the picture. On a good note, at least that would mean that I'm actually getting some sleep.

7:56 AM  
Blogger may said...

i wish i can work dressed or undressed like that :) or not.

5:47 PM  
Blogger poody said...

The last hospital job I had I remember the new nurses griping about having to work weekends and nioghts and holidays. I laughed thinking about how many of them I have done in my nurse life. I don't think the new generation of nurses has the work ethic we did and still do sometimes.I used to work 3-4 12 hr 7p to 7a shifts in the trauma unit then get off and spend my first off day up and running not sleeping until late that night. I wonder just how much sleep I have lost in my lifetime??

6:49 PM  
Blogger MY OWN WOMAN... said...

Swing shift is the pits, and there is research to substantiate that it is harmful to your health. Of course the worse swing shift possible is the: Night shift, day off, day shift, then afternoon shift. Talk about not knowing if you are coming or going!

4:02 PM  
Blogger FetchingGal said...

12 hour shifts of various day, night configurations really sucks and I am suffering because of it, too. I wish we could do self scheduling. When I tried to switch to 8 hour shifts I was offered 7 nights straight and then 2 off, then 2 evenings. Or vice versa. Was worse... Nurses sure are the hardest hit when it comes to healthcare. To bad we cannot band together as well as the medical types to make effective changes like they can. :/

9:32 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Wow. Has your friend's supervisor not heard of a little thing called the Americans with Disabilities Act? While it sucks to have to label one's condition 'a disability,' I know a shift worker who managed to get a set schedule due to her bipolar was under control, and she could deal with pressure until you turned every ounce of carbon in her to diamond, but if she became too sleep deprived--bam! manic episode. I realize that isn't par for the course (thank GOD not everyone has BPD) but REALLY... this isn't safe for nurses or patients. Healthcare of all fields should understand that (ha ha! Hospitals take care of their own? hoo haa haa...No, really, I'm serious).

5:04 AM  
Blogger Minnesotablue said...

I spent six years doing the rotating shift thing. I think I lost those six years of my life and it was especially hard cause my kids were little.

9:42 AM  

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