I imagine many of you are reading this while sipping your morning coffee, hopefully enjoying some bright sunshine, and mentally preparing to face your Monday not to mention the rest of the coming week. Meanwhile, right now I’m sitting here at a bar at 8AM sipping on Angry Orchard cider, hopefully about to be eating some greasy cheese curds, and mentally preparing for how I’m about to entirely switch my sleep cycle…again. Before we get too carried away, this is only my second post here on Society Letters, so let me take a moment to introduce myself. Hi, I’m Kate…. and I’m not an alcoholic.
I am, however; a rotating shift nurse at the local Veteran’s Hospital and as a result I’m always functioning on a slightly different wavelength than the rest of the world. My fellow healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, military service members, bartenders, college students the week before finals, Black-Friday-working retail employees, and all the new mama’s out there can probably relate to feeling like you are going through your day like a zombie hoping that nobody is noticing that you are nodding off mid-conversation. To the rest of you, this is my attempt at explaining this foreign world to you and apologizing for behaviors that may seem rude if you don’t know where we are coming from.
So here are a few facts you should know about life for those of us who work the third shift:
1) Blackout curtains are your best friend. As a nurse, I know that the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle is designed to keep us awake during the day. As a third-shift nurse, I KNOW that my natural inclination is to stay up during the day. It actually takes intentionality to get yourself to bed once the sun is up in the morning so forgive me if I have my sunglasses on and don’t engage in lively chatter when I run into you on my way home. I’m just trying to reduce outside stimuli and convince my body to start to wind down and get ready to sleep. Sleeping during the day is hard so often I will only get a few hours at a time. Eight hours straight is a total rarity. PS: lawnmowers are the enemy!
2) We will do everything we can to participate in life in the real world as if it is totally normal but sometimes it just can’t happen because having a few at beer league softball before coming into work is generally frowned upon.
3) Being home sleeping during the day does not equal available. Do you like taking phone calls, answering the doorbell, entertaining the cable guy, and running errands at three in the morning?!? Shockingly, neither do we! Our three in the morning just so happens to fall right around noon, so I apologize to my hairdresser for definitely falling asleep as you were shampooing and coloring my hair last week!
4) You never know what meal we are eating. Ever. Is it still called “breakfast” when it’s the first meal you eat of the day, but you are at your neighbor’s grilling out? Or do you call cheese curds, burgers, and alcohol after your shift “breakfast”. And lunch? Lunch seems to just get lost in the shuffle and morphs into “continuously snacking on whatever junk is available in the vending machine between the hours of midnight and 3AM”. This is then typically followed by numerous excuses about how you need to grocery shop and “your diet starts tomorrow”. So please don’t get offended when you invite us for dinner and we aren’t feeling up to eating pot roast 30 minutes after waking up or look at us strange when we order an entire meal and drinks at a restaurant at 7AM.
God works in mysterious ways. As I was typing the draft of this post at 4am during some down-time at work, I had to leave abruptly for a Code Blue. I’m happy to say that tonight we literally saved a life, and nights like these are why I love my job so much! Some days it is nice to have a tangible reminder that what I do truly makes a difference and makes all of this more than worth it! After I had just spend time writing about all the struggles of my job, I needed that profound moment to recognize just how trivial my complaints are in comparison to what others are facing.
So cheers to all my coffee mug friends out there who are just starting off their days and their week! And I raise my 8AM beer to all my fellow night-shifters and/or night-owls out there who can relate in any way to all of this! Here’s to everyone cutting everyone else just a little bit of extra slack this week because you never know what they are dealing with or going through. When it comes down to it, everyone could use a little extra love, and a lot more sleep!