While I’ve bitched and moaned for years about the hardships of working night shift (and believe me, there are plenty of them), I really have come to love my nocturnal world. There are a few particular things about being in the hospital at night that bring me the same lovely, lost emotions that I felt the first time I watched Lost in Translation. There’s both a loneliness and a solitude to walking the halls of this giant campus at night. I noticed it more than a few years ago…I found myself getting possessive of the night, feeling snarley at the staff that came in at 6 or 7am and flipped all the lights on without warning. I felt like the night, in some small way, belonged to me and how dare they trample it with their daytime voices and fresh coffee smells.
I love going outside the hospital, in good weather, and taking a walk around the adjacent football stadium at 4 or 5am. It’s the part of the day where the prime hours of the bats and the birds overlap a little bit. The perfect walking time is right around the same time color starts to appear in the dark sky. Once the first group of day shifters start to make their way in, that perfect walking time is over.
I used to do this regularly back in the misguided days when I was a cigarette smoker. It was an excuse for me to get out of the building, and walking around was a way to avoid having security sneak up on me. I would often run into patients out doing the same covert thing I was.
I no longer smoke, but I still love the idea of walking around a night. I was detered a year or two ago when a local serial groper pervert was caught in one of the hospital’s parking ramps – but really I just have to remain alert and keep my phone and pepper spray with me. I won’t have the night solitude stolen from me.
At night, I rarely have to wait for an elevator, or slow my pace when walking down any corridor to accomodate slower walkers, wheelchairs and beds in transit. Cafeteria lines are short, and from my spot up on the 7th floor, the city lights of this lovely river town sparkle and twinkle in the distance. When I go to the lower level at night, I can faintly hear music playing over the loudspeakers echoing down the empty linoleum hallways, an occurence you’d never come upon in the day time.
I like going into patient rooms at night, especially if they are sleeping well. I’m pretty stealthy after 11 years of night shift, so I can sneak in quietly, work in the soft glow of light from a computer monitor or IV pump. In the event that’s not enough, I have a tiny light clipped to my badge for checking Foleys and chest tubes in the dark. The other morning a patient commented to me about how they never heard or felt me come in and detach their IV line from their PICC at 0130. Charting my cares while listening to a sweet old lady snore softly from a warm bed can provoke some nice feelings in a nurse. Nights aren’t always quiet and content, but when they are, it’s really great.
And the best part is that, just as the day begins, the hallways fill up, the phones start ringing, the teams of doctors start rounding, families show up to visit and patients wake up with a list of needs from bathroom to teeth brushing to pain meds to showers…. I give report and stroll out into the blinding light of day, heading straight to my warm, soft bed.