Lights and Shadows of Night Shifts

– Dr. Hossain Abdul Hai

It is midnight on Monday. Whole city is covered in a deep sleep. However, here and there some buildings can be seen, that do not let the weariness or exhaustion touch them. Most of the people there wear white clothes. They spend their nights attending to patients. For example, the St. Marien Hospital, on a mountain in Bonn.

At a quarter to one, an ambulance stops in front of the hospital’s main entrance. There is an injured car driver inside the ambulance. The accident happened on the highway near Kessenich. The injured person is quickly taken from the ambulance to the emergency room. The doctors and nurses immediately begin to checkup the patient carefully. Doctors and nurses are busy treating emergencies throughout the night. Sometimes pregnant women also come to the maternity ward. Then they are cared for by midwives.

Alternating Day and Night

The German-Pakistani phyisician Dr. Jannat Chowdhury (pseudonym) is one of the gynecologists at St. Marien Hospital in Bonn. She and her colleagues work at nights by turn. Her night shift starts at 8 p.m. She always drives to work from her house in Bad Godesberg at half past seven. Then she works whole night. Her night shift ends around seven or eight O’Clock in the morning. Tired, with red eyes, she drives home and goes to bed.

The healthcare professionals are not on the duty every night. However, when they work at night, night becomes day for them and the next day becomes night. Their families and friends miss the night-shift workers both at night and during the day.

Dr. Chowdhury has some time to eat and drink on the duty at around 3 a.m. In the evenings, the night shift team always orders dishes together. However, sometimes they do not have time to eat, so the food gets cold. Tonight Dr. Chowdhury gets time for a break. During the break she says: „Well, the night shifts vary from hospital to hospital. Night shift means being in the hospital whole night to care for outdoor patients and admitted ones.

Can the health professionals sometimes sleep a little or not at all during the night shift? Her opinion:  “It depends on how busy night it is. Sometimes you can take a rest for two to three hours. Most of the time, although, you cannot really sleep.”

How many patients usually come at night? “It is very much different. For example, we work in the delivery room and also in our outdoor service. Sometimes we have eight births in one night, sometimes fewer. You cannot predict that. The outdoor services can be filled up with patients in a very short time. However, sometimes there are hardly any patients,” she adds.

Challenging but Interesting

If you work at night, the shift often ends early in the morning. Then you go home to sleep. Most of the time, you cannot fall asleep right away. Many have to go for shopping, go to the bank or take care of their households after their service. Then you sleep at noon or in the afternoon and try to get back into the normal day-night rhythm. “Staying up whole night and working is definitely exhausting, but that is part of our job. It is also fun to work at night. Dealing with emergencies is often a challenge and therefore very interesting.”

Unthinkable and Annoying

On the other hand, some people cannot imagine working at night. They are very much afraid of night shifts. They think, they will get sick, if they have to work at night. They think, the night is only for sleeping. If they are not allowed to sleep at night, they lose their normal rhythm of life. As the German-Turkish IT expert Mamet Tugluck (pseudonym) says: “Well, I have never worked in the night shift. I think it is very hard. It must be hard. Working whole night and sleeping during the day is quite unthinkable for me. A lot of happenings go on during the day. You cannot sleep peacefully. I don’t think anyone would want to work at night voluntarily. Some do it because they have to.”

If he gets a job offer that requires him to work at night, he will definitely reject it. Tugluck continues, “For once or may be twice, I can do night shifts only for a short time, but I can’t imagine doing it for several months. If I have to work at nights and my wife works during the day, we can no longer take care of our family and our relationship. We would only see each other for a short time and it would end up hurting the whole family.”  

Enjoying The Night Shift

The German-Bangladeshi physician Dr. Shahina Biswas (pseudonym) tells an amusing story from one of her night shifts. She sings very well. During her night shifts in a hospital in Bangladesh, when there were sometimes fewer patients, other colleagues would sit down with her in her chamber and ask her to sing. Once a patient suddenly came into her room, while she was singing. At first, he thought, he had gone to a wrong place. However, he was in the right place and the nurses and Dr. Biswash took care of him.

The Spectrum is so Broad

That is how, it goes on at night. It has different aspects. It makes some people happy, some upset. Some are afraid of night shifts. However, other want to work more at night shifts, because they get a wage premium for it. On the other hand, to some people, money is not everything. They think more about their responsibilities. For example, doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers and soldiers work during nights to help people, no matter what the challenges may be.

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