Wednesday, August 31, 2011

On the night shift...

Working the night shift is turning out to be...interesting. The hours in some ways are fantastic, and in other ways the hours are really hard. A typical shift for me is 8pm to 8am, 3 to 4 nights a week. It doesn't seem like it could work with small children, but it actually affords me more quality time with them than I've ever had before. On the plus side:

  • I don't have to leave the house until a little after 7pm and I don't leave work until after 8am, so I completely avoid rush hour traffic. The clinic is actually across town, much further away than TH's job downtown, but his commute takes almost twice as much time as mine due to traffic.

  • Because I don't have to leave the house until a little after 7pm, so I can spend a good amount of time with the family before heading out. We're able to eat dinner together almost every day, and I can even help TH get the bedtime routine started before I leave. Sadly when I worked the regular day shift there were many (way too many) nights where I came home after the kids were already in bed.

  • I can pick J up from school every day at 3:15, and 3 days a week I'm also the one dropping him off. This is huge. For the kids it's almost like I'm a stay at home mom, the majority of my time away from them is while they're sleeping. I can even make it to after school activities or soccer practice and still not be late to work. I might even be a classroom volunteer this year if I can find a way to squeeze it in.

  • I get 3 days a week of one-on-one time with Jr. while J is at school. When we were in Vegas, he went to daycare 4-5 days a week, all day. Now he only has to go twice a week on the days when I need to sleep after a shift, and he's picked up by 4pm at the latest.

  • My schedule is split up, so I don't have more than 2 consecutive nights on duty. Actually the schedule is self is pretty darn good, 3 nights one week, 4 weeks the next. I really can't complain.

It's not all sunshine and roses, though. There are some negatives, which I'm trying to get used to.

  • Although the schedule is great for the kids and for the family overall, it's not so great to spend 3-4 nights a week away from TH. It's downright weird.

  • On the weekdays when I work, TH typically doesn't get home from his hellish commute until around 6:15, and I'm out the door at 7ish. Then we don't see each other again until the next evening. The 45 minutes or so that we're "together" is mostly spent in a rush of eating dinner and handing off the kids. It feels like a shift change....which I guess it kind of is.

  • The night shift at a small veterinary ER is very...lonely. There's one doctor (me) and one technician. That's it, all night. When it's busy, it doesn't matter. When it's slow, it's just me and the tech, who I don't know very well, hanging out reading and killing time. I wish I could call my sisters or friends, but being the middle of the night, they're all sleeping of course.

  • The schedule overall is kind of lonely. I'm going to work when everyone else is coming home or going out to have fun. When I'm on my way home, everyone else is headed off to work. The 2 days a week when TH takes the kids to school/daycare before I get off of work, I come home to an empty house. Don't get me wrong, it's kind of peaceful and I need to sleep, but I do miss having someone there to run up to me and give me a big hug, or to talk to about my day. These "vampire hours" are still strange to me.

  • Because I always have at least one weekend shift, I feel like my social life is suffering. I'm either at work or trying to sleep. When I have weekend nights off, I want to spend that time with TH, leaving precious little time for me to hang out with my sisters or other people.

I think we're getting used to it. The job itself is proving to be very challenging, which is a good thing. I definitely don't feel burned out anymore - my doctor muscles are being flexed every night and some of the work is exhilarating. Working on emergency is its own strange environment, you see all the extremes. People are either really grateful for your help, or irate and cursing you out because you can't work miracles or they don't have the finances to take care of their seriously ill pet. There's lot of blood and guts and running around and doing CPR and surgery at 2am. But then there's also long stretches of dead time where the only break in the monotony of waiting for a case is a random drunk guy banging on the front door wanting to use the bathroom. The night shift has its own subculture with drunk or stoned people, local cops who stop by regularly to chat and make sure we're ok, and strange late-night radio shows that I was never aware of before. Even the cases have a night-time quality to the them - I can't tell you how many animals I've seen in just 2 weeks that have somehow ingested their owner's recreational drugs. I see alot more death at night than I ever did as a day vet, because the animals are so sick/injured or sadly because of money. I'm becoming hardened to it and more stressed by it at the same time.

It's different. It's better in many ways, but it's a new dynamic. So far...I think I like it.

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