My week of Labor & Delivery night shifts is over!
This was my first time working nights consistently. I’d only ever worked night shifts one-off in the emergency room. My schedule for the week was 7pm-7am and I was pretty nervous as to how my body would handle it.
The First Night
My first shift started at 7pm on a Sunday night. I had been at a wedding in Chicago that weekend and flew home with just enough time to change clothes, microwave some leftovers, and head to the hospital. Even though I”d slept until 10am that morning, I was tired! I had coffee throughout the night which helped, but by the time 6am came around I could barely keep my eyes open. Luckily we were pretty busy that night, so I was distracted. One first time mom pushed from 1am-3am before delivering, so that kept me awake!
I’m not always the best sleeper, so I was just praying I’d be able to get some decent rest during the day. That first morning when I got home I was so tired that I barely wanted to brush my teeth before jumping into bed. My eye mask was a life saver and I had no trouble falling asleep. I did wake up a couple of times, and the dog tried to kiss me awake a few times, but I slept until almost 4pm. Phew!!
Outside The Hospital
The hardest part was figuring out what to do with myself between 4pm and going back to the hospital at 7pm. I needed a little time to reorient myself because waking up when the sun was going down felt really weird. I was also super hungry, but then when I ate I had to wait a while if I wanted to work out. Plus I didn’t have that much time to go to the gym and still shower and get ready. Sooo…I sat around the house and eventually put on a light yoga video to stretch myself out. It felt amazing!
I had no groceries after being out of town, and the hospital cafeteria is closed from 6:30pm to 6:30am (stupid) so each day I drove to the grocery store and made myself a salad to bring with me. I also brought tons of other snacks — mixed nuts, Larabars, cheese, Vega shakes, chocolate, iced coffee, etc.
Hit Or Miss
The next few nights were a little hit or miss. We had some excitement with emergency c-sections and deliveries in the emergency room, but also plenty of hours when my classmates and I sat around studying or playing cards. We finished our required videos and quizzes, I got a lot of blog work and project work done, and I even finished the second season of Stranger Things. 12 hours can be a long time when your patients are laboring really slowly!
Early on in the week I decided to just give up on being productive outside of work, go with the flow, listen to my body, and just focus on feeling my best while working all night. I let myself sleep a lot, potentially even more than I would have if I were working days. Because of that I was never too tired. My body adjusted pretty quickly. I had a few phone calls scheduled for late afternoon, and one day I managed to find a hot yoga class that fit into my schedule, but most days I just chilled at home for the few hours I was awake.
The Strangest Part
The strangest part of the night shift was definitely leaving work and going back to work on the same day. It feels surreal when you wake up on the same day, just hours later, and have to go to the hospital. It’s like a time warp! I also never knew what day it was or what time it was. I definitely felt like my life just revolved around the labor and delivery unit.
It was a great bonding experience for my team! We laughed a ton and got to know our residents better than we did on the day team. Overall it was a really fun experience the the week. I don’t envy the people that do nights full time because you feel so off from the rest of the world. I assume if I were doing this long-term I would find more of a routine and things would normalize, though. But for one week it was a neat experience. I have a lot more night shifts in my future in medicine, so at least now I have a few under my belt.
- Do you work or have you ever worked nights?