The Disadvantages of Working the Night Shift in a Hospital

by Naomi Millburn

Night shifts are a necessary part of many careers, notably for people in the health care field. Patients need medical attention around the clock, after all. Working unconventional hours at a hospital comes with some potential drawbacks, especially where having a normal sleep schedule is concerned.

Lack of Vigilance

After a lifetime of going to sleep at night, it's not always easy to adjust to enjoying your slumber when the rest of the world is awake and in full swing. If you don't receive sufficient sleep during the day, you risk not being vigilant and focused while at the hospital working nights. When you work in the medical profession, whether as a nurse, physician or anything else, being attentive and on your toes is of utmost importance. Being sleepy on the job can even be hazardous. When you're with a patient, you need to have 100 percent of your concentration. According to a 2008 article in the "American Journal of Surgery," surgeons who receive sufficient sleep don't make as many mistakes in conducting surgeries on patients. Their hands also move more fluidly in surgery.

Unpleasant Mood

Not only can sleeping wacky hours potentially make you tired and less effective, it can also make you cranky. Working directly alongside patients is a major component of the job for many hospital staff members. The last thing you want to do is behave in an unprofessional manner. When people visit a hospital for any reason, they expect to see smiling and comforting employees who put their minds at ease -- not ones who look like they woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day.

Weekends, Family and Social Life

Employment in a hospital setting doesn't always come with lots of wiggle room. Not only is the night shift common for many, so is working on the weekends -- and for lengthy stretches of time. This can make maintaining the rest of your life a challenge. If you have children, working nights on weekends can make spending quality time with them tough. It can also be hard to be tired whenever they're awake and ready to go about their days. If you have a family with small children, working the night shift can be particularly hard if you don't have someone around to help with babysitting duties. If you're at the hospital all Saturday night, you're going to need someone to look after the little ones. Working nights on weekends can make it difficult to make plans with family and friends for social gatherings and activities, too.

Remember the Positives

While night shifts can indeed come with big drawbacks, they can be great options for night owls who have no trouble falling asleep with the sun in their eyes. While classic day shifts are often hectic and chaotic, the pace for night shifts in hospitals is often -- although not always -- a lot calmer. Working the night shift also often comes with a financial incentive -- same as for working holidays. You also might find yourself not having to agonize over finding a good employee parking spot. Hospitals are often packed in the daytime and emptier at night.

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