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Rookie Wit & Wisdom
The Hard Shifts

The seasoned nurses on my floor have called me a complaining, spoiled brat.

Okay, maybe I complained.

I guess I felt justified. Just out of nursing school, I suddenly was working nights, weekends, holidays--all the hard shifts. I wasn’t used to not being able to spend “normal” time with my friends and family; it was a difficult transition.

When I expressed my frustration--said something like, “I’m tired,” or “I wish I didn’t have to work this weekend”—or even asked one of them to fill in when I had a wedding to attend, all the seasoned nurses rebuffed me. “It’s your turn. You have to do it. Suck it up. We did it. This is nothing compared to how we had it,” they said with a scowl.

There was no support in building up to those horrible shifts. What I needed to hear—and what would’ve helped me stop complaining--was, “You know what? It stinks, but eventually you’ll make it through. This is just a phase. Hang in there.”

All I needed was a little support; it would’ve gone a long way in helping me not be discouraged. It makes me wonder how I’m going to be once I have 10+ years under my belt: an adversary or ally?

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14 Responses to “The Hard Shifts”

  1. Stefanie Says:

    I’ve dealt with this same thing on occasion, and you have to be positive and use these nurses as a role model in reverse, so to speak. Use them as an example of what NOT to be. I know that I don’t want to be like those nurses that act like chronically ill patients are just faking it and they need to just go home. I want to be a light in those patients’ lives and bring a smile to their face! I think that nurses really set the tone for a patient’s stay in the hospital and all of us should consider that!

  2. Melissa Granger Says:

    It really is hard to work the holidays especially. But you have to make the best of it
    and know that in a few years you will have more senority. It really helps on the holidays and weekends to have parties. Have a potluck or a gab bag for Christmas. It is hard but it helps to make a little fun out of it. It is a lot easier to get through the shift with a positive attitude. I hope that helps

  3. Carl Bishop Says:

    One way I got through was to think, well at least at the end of my shift I get to go home, not like the patients that have to be here the whole time. As Stefanie says use those nurses as a role models as to what NOT to do in the future. I have been nursing for 25 years and I still work weekends and holidays. It is an opportunity to help people who need help, isn’t that what the holidays are for, to show compassion and help someone. They certainly don’t want to be there and you can maybe bring some cheer into their lives. I use to wear an Santa hat and try and be as cheerful as possible.

  4. Rachel Says:

    I work nights (my choice) and our hospital works both days of a holiday, but my family has really been a huge supporter during the holidays by planning a huge party the day before I start the holidays shifts or the day after when I get off. They live hours away but will show up on our day and I’ll come home to a wonderful meal and presents and even decorations in my apartment. So the hospital doesn’t seem like such a drag because I know my family will be there when i get home. And this may sound like an even crazier idea, but last Thanksgiving my mom actually showed up Thanksgiving morning when I got off, again had dinner ready and then after an hour of merry making, she went home and I went to bed to get ready for work that night. You can still celebrate the holidays even when you have to work. So forget the crappy people, maybe they have no one to make the holiday special regradless of the day.

  5. Kathy Quan RN BSN PHN Says:

    I don’t think many people actually consider the fact that nursing is a 24/7 job. Even in such fields as home health, clinics, and MD offices, you don’t always get off on time and there are many sacrficices to make. But people don’t get well just because it’s a holiday or the weekend.

    When you’ve built some seniority you can expect a few perks and the newbies will have to work the grunt shifts, but it would be nice if someone had been a little nicer about it. Keep that in mind and set a better exampole when you have the chance.

    Having a little celebration at work helps a lot, and you’ll probably find a lonely patient or two who will appreciate having someone there to spend their holiday with. Look for the silver lining and you’ll find it.

    Nurses aren’t the only ones who make sacrifices at the holidays. My brother has been in retail for 30 years and as a manager, he HAS to work late on Christmas Eve which is when our family celebrates. We’ve had to accomodate his hours countless times and even a few times had to celebrate a few days before or after when the kids were little and it would be way too late by the time he got home.

    And every year he HAS to work long hours on Black Friday with the craziest of shoppers!

    No job is perfect!!! Enjoy what you do and how you make a difference for your patients. Make the most of the time you do have with your family and friends. Sacrifices make you think about what you have in a different way!

    Think of ways to make the holiday a happy time at your unit. Be proactive!!!! Enjoy!

  6. Mr Ian Says:

    For new grads it must be tuff to get used to 24/7 shofts I’m sure. But in defence of the old duffers who aren’t so supportive; some of this is a smack back to the issues of how ‘old trained’ nurses were rostered on all shifts and now uni-nurses work only day shift hours.
    The benefit of that culture was that students were used to working shifts and it was no culture shock to them when they started on the wards. Newly qualified nurses are being thrown in not only as ‘decision-makers’ but also into working hours they’ve never worked before.
    Students on my unit are offered opportunity to work any shifts they want – even nights when nothing happens. Seldom do they take up the evening shifts, none take up the weekend shifts because, rightly thinking, they don’t have to. Those that do take up the alternate shifts to (8-4:30) get to experience the 24/7 care a lot better and get used to the reality before they hit the floor (they also get extra perks like more preceptor/mentor time or more time to get to practice things). If their attitude is to suck the guts out of the 8-4:30 cos it’s the last time they might get it then they won’t be ready for the reality when it hits.
    I don’t blame the students – they get the option and aren’t likely to mess their social lives up if they don’t have to.
    I’m not supporting negative attitudes to new grad nurses either.
    But why should the full time staff have to ‘carry’ a new starter because they weren’t trained into the culture of the job also?
    Regardless, hard shifts suck all round.

  7. nursingaround Says:

    You’ll get used to it. It’s just a part of nursing. In fact nursing is one of those few careers that completely screw you social life. Some people don’t mind it so much, as they have days off during the week and can get lots of things done, instead of trying to rush at the weekend.
    A lot depends on what stage of life you are at, eg mother/father, single and wanting to have fun. I know I missed out on a lot of fun with my friends when I just graduated because it felt like I was working every weekend, well only 5 out of 6

  8. angiegirlie Says:

    I’ve been a nurse for 12 years now. When I first started out, My unit required you to work 3 out of 4 weekends (to make sure weekends were covered). Never mind that they called you to pick up extra shifts during the week. I was on 3-11 for the first year and a half before figuring out that night shift was much better for maintaining any sort of interaction with my husband who worked 7-3 at his job. At least we could see each other in the evening before I went to work.
    I loved night shift. As I recall, I’ve worked every Thanksgiving and the day or night before and every Christmas (and some Christmas Eve shifts on nights) and every New Years Eve (until this past one). For the first few years of nursing, I was not given a choice in the matter. Well, not really anyways.
    As a night shift person on one unit, our policy was that you had to work 8 hours of a major holiday and 8 hours of a minor holiday…that was part of your normal shift. (Thanksgiving was “if you worked last Thanksgiving, you were off this one and vice versa. But if you were off Thanksgiving, then you had to work the day after”) For night staff, the major holidays were Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Minor were the actual holidays. So if you were a night shifter, working 8 hours of day shift on Christmas Eve wasn’t going to be approved. So I’d almost always try to get Christmas night and New Year’s Eve and go in at 7p on New Year’s Eve to avoid the drunk drivers.

    Where I work now, we have the lovely “weekenders” as part of the crew. At our hospital, we only work 12 hour shifts and we all work 3 shift each week (unless we sign up for overtime). The weekenders work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, every week. If the holidays fall on the weekend, they work them. They are allowed to request 6 weekend shifts off per year as “vacation” time. But vacation time is not approved around holidays. Weekenders never have to work Thanksgiving. Staff can swap shifts so long as the unit is covered. Weekenders do make considerably more money than the regular staff. But it works out for them. Most of them are married and have spouses who work during the week….someone has to watch the kids…
    Hospitals with weekender programs will give you the most time off. In time, family does learn to accept that having a loved one as a nurse means that holiday parties/gatherings will have to be adjusted to allow for weird schedules.
    A lot of folks like to swap out shifts as a favor…study the schedule for your unit. See who is available to work the shift you need (or even part of it) See what you could work for them that would give them an extra day off in a series of days off. People can be bargained with.

  9. JoeERRN Says:

    Weekends+evenings+holidays=extra pay! 😉

  10. Paula Says:

    I’ve been working for 25 years and I too still work every other weekend and every other holiday. It is just a fact of life in the field of nursing. I decided a long time ago that the day my family and I got together “was the real holiday” and the day that I worked was just another work day. Works for me. And think of the patients that really need you on that day more than ever…….it will always be a 24/7 job if you chose to work as a nurse!

  11. walshsb Says:

    being in your very same place, i know it’s hard to stay positive. i feel like some of the old-timers are extremly rude to the new nurses and, frankly, it’s uncalled for. there’s no reason to go around name-calling (spoiled brat), as it just brings down the attitude of the unit as a whole. unfortunately, it will probably always be that way. i deal with it where i work, too. i just think, they must hate life to be so grouchy 98% of the time and just pray that i never turn out that way. i also feel there’s no way to sugar-coat working nights and holidays if you are forced and it’s not a choice. the paycheck is nice, but if you’d rather be some place else, it really doesn’t make up for the time missed with friends and family. after a year, it’s become easier to accept, but it still brings me down.

  12. liz Says:

    I agree with Mr Ian. During our pracs, we do one week of PMs and the next week is AMs, unless in the last year you got a preceptor and had to work the shifts that they got. It is a big shock going from like PMs and AMs to random shifts. I wouldnt mind working holidays coz it means more pay for doing the same thing. And as others have said, you can meet with family and friends later. I think it would be nice to be there on those special days and help try to cheer up those who are worse off than you are, as Carl and Stephanie both mentioned

  13. Sukie Says:

    I don’t get it at all. Did you not realize you were going to have to work holidays, weekends and nights when going into nursing? Just curious.

  14. wsc2006 Says:

    No offense, we all know as nurses we are getting into that when we sign up for the job…the stress doesn’t stop after nursing school. We just have to suck it up and get through it, no matter how many years doing it, we still do it.

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