I must admit that crazy as it will sound, I love working night shifts, and much prefer them to day shifts. I work on a 12 hour shift pattern the day shifts run from 7am to 7pm, the nights run from 7pm to 7am. My love of nocturnal working is not for the reasons that most non-shift workers think. When I say this to people not involved in the modern ambulance service they normally assume that it is because we get to sleep on nights. Not true. Maybe about 15 years ago we used to get quiet spells in the early hours and could ‘get our heads down’ for an hour or so (after we had done all our station duties and cleaned our ambulances, obviously!) Now, just like day shifts there is a constant flow of work, the next job is always waiting for us.
No, I have many reasons for preferring them:
I hate getting up early for a 7am start. When I’m on nights I sleep well during the day, going to bed as soon as I get home about 8-9, then gradually wake up about 3pm, without an alarm clock and it feels like I’ve had a lie in.
I seem to have more ‘me time’ and get to read and generally relax more without interruptions.
Most of my neighbours work during the day and so during the week at least it is lovely and quiet while I’m asleep.
Driving to work I’ve missed most of the rush hour traffic and what traffic there is mainly flows in the opposite direction to me.
The roads are much quieter during the shift. After about midnight, I only have to share the roads with other ambulances, police cars and taxis. I did once see a fire engine out and about after midnight but no one believes me (only joking, fire service colleagues – just part of the banter!)
I see lots of foxes out and about and once saw a badger (these are urban critters, I work in and around a big city).
I love watching the stars (celestial not celebrity); I was a bit of an astronomy geek as a kid. On clear nights it’s nice to have a few minutes looking out into the cosmos, contemplating the huge distances to the stars we can see and the vast size and scale of space-time really helps me put my tiny life into perspective.
My mind seems to be in a different state in the early hours, very calm; I seem to see things clearly. I get flashes of inspiration about things. The only problem is that I forget them later if I don’t get chance to make a note of them. Lots of my ideas for these blogs come during a night shift.
The types of job we get are often quite different at nights than during the day. Road traffic collisions (RTC’s) tend to be more serious. Less traffic often means higher speeds and unfortunately more people drive under the influence of drugs/alcohol at night. Loneliness becomes more of a problem at night, people become more isolated and have fewer distractions when the rest of the world sleeps often turning to alcohol which seems to offer a short term relief but overall just makes things much worse. Domestic violence increases at night as relationship problems seem to be aggravated as the outside distractions are removed, also fuelled by alcohol.
People say I must drink lots of coffee to get through the night – not really. I have in the past but have found for me personally lots of coffee just gives me a headache and makes me tetchy and edgy. I do love a nice coffee, but now limit my brews and have found the secret for me is to drink lots of water – seems to keep me awake and alert.
One of the highlight nightshifts for me was many years ago when my children were quite young and I was working a Christmas Eve night shift. I was under strict instructions to try and get to meet Father Christmas while he was on his rounds and if possible get a photo taken with him. At 3am I met the great man and he posed for a photo next to the ambulance with me. They were delighted and proud for many years!
So, that in a nutshell is why I love the night shift.