Recently, my pregnant wife came to me and said, “I need to have you at home at night to help me take care of the baby when he, or she, is born.” When my wife said this, it definitely caught my attention. At that point I knew I needed to find a way to work day shift again. Honestly, I had already been thinking about it and knew it was the best thing for me. Especially, being the health guru I am. My wife’s request, however, was the straw that broke the camel’s back and is what finally made me take action.
Now, I know what you are thinking, but night shift has so many advantages. As someone who has been a nurse for over ten years and worked half of that on nights, I understand where you are coming from. I know about the increase in pay, less busyness, better parking, less traffic, less social interaction with patient family members, and maybe more time outside of work due to sleeping less. Trust me, I have taken all of this into consideration, but I had to look outside of myself and more at the people around me and what they needed. Below I have listed the five top reasons why I am switching to day shift for good.
Family is important: My wife expressed to me a need for support with our new baby due in June and, as a man and husband, that is when I knew I needed to step up to the plate and make something happen. I want to be there for the new baby, and I want my wife to feel reassured that she is not dealing with this alone. This is also beneficial for our marriage since my wife no longer has to sleep in an empty house alone. This makes her feel safe. It also helps us feel like we are a team and not just roommates who pass each other by on occasion. Relationships are hard on their own, do you need to make it more difficult when you don’t have too by keeping night shifts?
Safety driving home: I almost forgot to include this one. Staying awake on the way home in the morning has been a challenge for me. I have a thirty-five minute drive home in the morning. Honestly, this could be the most important reason for me to switch to day shift, but it was not the one that made me take action. I just fought through it and thank God I never had an accident. Think about it; it only takes one time to fall asleep at the wheel, and you can kill yourself or someone else, or both. This is not a wise decision when you have a family depending on you.
Maximize your health: By switching to day shift, it allows me to keep my sleep schedule the same and not have to keep resetting my circadian rhythms every few days. Personally, I was not affected by this as much as some, at least from what I could tell. However, when I did some lab work, as I often do, I found my hemoglobin A1C (an indicator of your blood sugar over time) was 5.8 ( 5.6 or below is considered normal, and 5.7 to 6.4 is considered pre-diabetic). This was higher than I thought, and even though I ate a low-sugar diet before I had this lab work done, I would have expected my A1C to be in the 5.0 to 5.3 range. This indicates to me I had some low-level inflammation happening which may be due to the night shifts. Not getting proper rest can raise the stress on the body which will increase your cortisol levels and keep your blood sugar higher than it would normally be. This is also hard on your immune system which can make you vulnerable to getting sick. Something my fellow night shift co-workers struggle with almost daily.
Many nurses mention they seem to gain weight on the night shift. I have heard so many medical experts recommend against night shift from a hormonal standpoint. Switching back to days, I would often feel a little brain fog as my body tried to readjust to waking up early which is my natural rhythm. Take all of this into consideration; you can do a search for studies showing people who work night-shift. They are sicker and die sooner than people who work day shift in similar situations and lifestyles. Aski yourself, are the benefits of night shift worth the disadvantages of working night shift?
Steady routine: For me working dayshift allows me to get up every day at the same time which is about 4 to 5 am. I know many of you are cringing at getting up this time in the morning, but it works best for me. Remember, if you want to get up early, you need to go to bed early. I am not a night owl and start to shut down shortly after 9 pm. My wife can attest to this as she struggles to fall asleep by 9:00pm (however, the more her pregnancy progresses it has become easier for her). For me, I am the most productive in the morning. This is the time that is best for me to read and write with full mental clarity.
Better for your career: Where I work at it is hard to be challenged on the night shift, and there are more opportunities to be part of committees and get involved on day shift. Also, it is easier to attend educational opportunities and meet people you would never see on the night shift. Whether you believe it or not, dayshift opens doors for opportunity and career advancement. It gives you more chances to help your coworkers (better team building) and offers plenty of challenging scenarios which you can reference back to when it comes time for your proficiency review.
In the end, night shift may still be what works best for your lifestyle. Only you can be the judge of that. Let's face it; we need night shifters to take care of patients at night, but that does not have to be your excuse. Remember, the key is not to become a patient yourself by keeping your health as a high priority. In this article, I have laid out the specific reasons I am choosing to stay on day shift until the end of my career if God wills it. For me, not switching to day shift was about the short-term things such as the busyness, lower pay, less time for myself, and the traffic. As I looked past all of that, I saw more of the long-term effects on my health, safety, career, and family. I came to a conclusion to do a permanent switch to day shift after ten years of bedside nursing.
What are some of the reasons you work days, nights, or both? What has been your reasons for switching from one to the other whether it is nights or days? Let me know in the comments below or message me with your questions.
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Mayo Clinic Staff Print. (2016, January 07). A1C test. Retrieved, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/a1c-test/details/results/rsc-20167939