If you're here then you must have figured out that I am a nurse. That's me above (getting a little crazy there!) with one of our cats, Griselda. If you're not already a little nuts when you start out as a medical professional you will certainly get that way. Until I have time to do anything more, here is a little article describing just how nuts night shift can be
Surviving Night Shift
"Jimmy, we have a body for you; the patient in room 214 has died."
That was the phone call received at two AM by the security guard of our little general hospital. His job was then to take the body to the morgue to await transport to the funeral home.
When he arrived at room 214 he found the body bagged and ready to go and the nurse busy elsewhere. Jimmy is a small but well-built young man, originally trained as a county police officer. So he proceeded to transfer the white plastic-wrapped bundle on his own. But as he grasped the shoulders and began to heave it over onto the gurney, a muffled voice suddenly cried, "Hey, take it easy, will ya!"
Jimmy couldn't get out of the room fast enough, but the gurney was between him and the door. "My legs were moving, but I wasn't getting anywhere," he said later.
It was soon revealed that the "corpse" was actually Mike, our lively respiratory therapist, and this hoax had been orchestrated by Nellie, the night supervisor. She was getting back at Jimmy for the time he gave her a sandwich box with a fake rat inside.
Such activities are not at all uncommon on night shift. After all, if it's a quiet evening (though we hate to use the Q-word, it's too often a harbinger of doom) then we need some activity to keep us awake. Certainly we have medications to give and charting to do, but that only takes so long and if the patients all sleep we may find ourselves twiddling our thumbs. Practical jokes help to pass the long hours till shift change.
Our most elaborate prank was one that lasted all night, which everyone knew about except the victim. On a slow Halloween Eve one of the nurses donned a portable heart monitor from the cardiac unit, and we all delighted in watching Scott, the monitor tech go mad trying to figure out where the mystery heart rhythm was coming from.
Scott is an old school mate of mine, a large young man with an easy smile and a mischievous nature. He is himself a great perpetrator of practical jokes, but that night it seemed to us that he couldn’t take it as well as he could dish it out. When he learned the truth at the end of the shift he was livid.
"Did you have anything to do with this?" he demanded of me, his wide, round face flushed bright red.
"Oh no!" I protested. "I was just an innocent bystander."
In the days that followed Scott's temper simmered down. But he still tries to claim that he quickly figured out what was up and was just playing along. Those of us that saw his reaction know better, though.
Pranks, raunchy jokes, and the occasional ghost story are all ways that we keep the adrenaline pumping, just enough to get us through the night. You might think we would restrain ourselves when the supervisor comes around, and most of all with Nellie who looks like one of those lovable grandmotherly types who doesn’t always get the joke. But appearances are deceiving, and Nellie is always eager to join into any mischief that's going on, or even start some herself. Not a few times I've seen her come around the corner with a needle-less syringe filled with water, ready to shoot at an unsuspecting co-worker. Or I might answer the phone in a business-like way, "Medical-surgical, this is Jessica," only to hear Nellie's sweet southern drawl, "Hey, suuugar!" and look up to see her grinning as she hangs up the extension at the other end of the desk.
Not all of our colleagues appreciate such pranks, of course. We usually are able to identify those few individuals and keep them away from the action. But not always, as we found when a letter came to administration from a disgruntled ex-employee. She listed many grievances against her former associates, not the least of which was the running gags that went on during night shift.
Much to our chagrin Nellie was called before the president of the hospital, since she was specifically named as the ringleader. But she rose to the occasion. Without giving too much detail she confirmed that the night shift employees do indeed joke around when the work is slow, but do nothing to endanger our patients or ourselves. The president then admitted that he wasn't taking the letter very seriously due to other circumstances.
"Actually, I think it's good for the employees to joke amongst themselves," he said. "We do it here in the office all the time; it helps to boost morale."
So there you have it, approval from our own president. Not that we would have stopped our shenanigans if he did disapprove. The nights are long and lack of sleep makes us giddy. While the patients slumber we'll have our own fun, enough to keep us going till morning's first light. We'll just do it more quietly now.