Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Week 4 of CPE III - Struggling With The 12-Hour Shift Work

This semester we follow a real nurse's schedule.  This usually means working two 12-hour days and then switching to two 12-hour nights.  Then we get a few days off before beginning a new set.
It doesn't sound very difficult, but 12-hour shifts are hard.  I wake up at 5 am to catch a 6 am bus to make it to work by 7:30 am.  Then I work 12 hours until 7:30 pm and get home by about 8:30-9 pm.  That gives me just enough time to shower, eat a snack, take care of Poggles, and then go to bed.  I do this for two days.
On the second day home, I can stay up a little later.  Then I sleep in the next morning, do laundry (so I have clean uniforms), enjoy my day a little bit, then take a nap from 2-5pm, catch the 6pm bus to get to work by 7:30pm, and then work 12 hours before getting off at 7:30am.  When I get home, I sleep in as much as I can, and repeat for another night shift.
The flipping in sleeping schedules throws me off.  For the next couple nights, I wake up in the middle night for no particular reason.  It takes me about two days before I am back to sleeping through the night.  But I feel constantly groggy and slightly irritable, and I feel the need to take afternoon naps because I feel tired.
Part of the grogginess and irritability comes from swapping sleeping schedules, the other part comes from the stress of the work itself.  I have picked up the bad habit of worrying about patients on my days off.  I think about how they are doing and whether they are having a good day or a bad day.  I wonder if anyone has come to visit them.  Some of the patients have no visitors at all, despite telling me that they do have grown up children.  Why don't their kids come to visit them?
Another thing that bothers me is growing old.  I see all the patients struggling with their different diseases and conditions.  Some of them are so confused that they think it's somewhere in the 1930's or 50's and they are still a young adult instead of an elderly person.  They tell me about how they have small children (when their children are all grown up with children of their own).  Some of them cry constantly for a family member that has passed away a long time ago, and how do you tell them that they are gone?
I feel that working with confused patients is very draining.  I try to rationalize with them or persuade them or console them and so much of it is a struggle because they don't understand.  They fear their surroundings, the people, the medicine, etc, and they don't know if they can trust anyone or anything.  Their fear and anxiety becomes part of my fear and anxiety since I am the one working with them and trying to understand where they are coming from, and it wears on me.
The nurses complain about how many times they have taken a patient to the bathroom, even though it is only 3-4 times in 12 hours.  I feel bad for the patient because 3-4 times is not a lot, but I also understand their frustration because taking a confused person to the bathroom can be very difficult.  You often need 2-3 people to operate a lift and move a heavy patient.  It takes a lot of effort to explain everything we are doing and sometimes the person gets confused and upset or they hit out.
One nurse mentioned being punched in the throat before.  Sometimes they even change their mind about going to the bathroom and you have to undo the lift and put them back to bed, only to have them ask to go to the bathroom again after a few minutes.
On my days off I do a lot of thinking.  I think about how it sucks to be a sick and confused person, and how I don't want to be like that one day.  I wonder about whether it is worth it to live to be that old if I have to live like that.  Then I think about all the people that are suffering as a result of different things they did when they were younger like smoke a lot, or drink a lot, or eat a lot of fattening foods.
I look at how I am living my life and I think about whether I should eat that slice of pie (even though it would be really tasty and I would really enjoy it.)  I feel like it takes a little of the enjoyment out of life to see the possible outcome of some of my decisions.  At the same time, if I don't enjoy my life, what is the point?
So, as you can see, it is wearing on the mind to do the 12 hour shifts and shift rotations.  It makes one just groggy enough to poorly adapt to the shocking experiences associated with acute care nursing.  I have one more day off before it's time for another set.  I hope I'll be able to recover sufficiently by then.
Have a good week!
My Nursing School Diary


JOJO said...

I understand all the thoughts you have been having. I think it is only natural when you see so many sick people and have to care for them. As for the thoughts about you growing old, I think it's best to take those thoughts with a grain of salt. Don't read so much into them because you cannot predict the future. I've discovered that you can still have your treats (cakes,popsicles,tarts etc.) in moderation. Exercising is always good, keeps you healthy, burns the excess fat, and overall heart health is better. As long as you keep that as your routine, exercising and eating healthy with the occasional food that makes you happy, you've done your best for your body. Whatever health issue happens when we all get old will happen, so why worry now.
Hopefully this makes sense and help you feel a bit better.


JOJO said...

I love the pictures by the way. So cute