A Busy Time for Those Working the Wee Hours
You could say that Shirelle Dickinson, R.N., lead nurse in the Acute Care Unit at NorthBay Medical Center, was born to work nights.
The oldest of six children, Shirelle is the only member of her family to have been delivered into the world while the stars were out. Apparently, that’s her comfort zone. “My mom has told me all my life that I’m a night person—and I believe it,” she says.
Many people dread the thought of toiling away in the wee morning hours, but fortunately, there are those who thrive when the skies go dark. For them, night time is the best time.
“It may sound weird to others, but I really love it,” says Diane Reilly, an acute care nurse for NorthBay who works from 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. three nights a week.
Late-shift workers need to be mentally strong and confident, have good assessment skills, have a strong support system at home and be able to sleep in the daytime.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Melissa Kerry, a clinical nurse at VacaValley Hospital who has done the late shift off and on for 12 years.
“It works for me because I can spend more time with my family and I’m able to attend my children’s activities,” she says.
The late shifts have their inherent downfalls: Night nurses deal with many more trauma cases than their day-time counterparts. And the pain experienced by patients is often greater at night.
But the late shift also has its benefits. Among them is more alone time with patients and a greater chance to bond. “It’s usually just you and the patient at night,” Shirelle points out. “Sometimes you get an opportunity to listen to their story and you learn about them and their family.”
And, adds Diane, “You’re the one who is there to tuck them in for bed.”
Another plus, the nocturnal nurses point out, is the tight-knit team spirit that exists during late shifts.
“You have less traffic with other professionals such as physicians, case workers, administrators and physical therapists,” says Shirelle. “So the people you work with become like family. You really have to rely on each other, and your knowledge and experience.”
“There are not as many distractions as there are during the day shift,” Melissa adds.
What kind of qualities go into making a great late-shift worker? “You have to be mentally strong and confident. You need good assessment skills,” Diane says. “And it helps to have a good support system at home.”
Of course, it also helps to have the right kind of snooze patterns to cope with a hard day’s night. “You have to have the ability to stay awake when everyone is sleeping,” says Shirelle, “and the ability to sleep during the day so you can stay up all night.”