ELKHART — The night shift is underappreciated.
Long hours, dark conditions, everyone else sleeping. And for nurses working the night shift on Sunday, working the night shift means working an extra hour.
“Most people wouldn’t think about it and they just think it’s a normal shift, but that extra hour adds another layer,” said Lisa Fatti, a registered nurse at Elkhart General Hospital. ““Psychologically it affects us because you start getting tired.”
Fatti chose the night shift instead of the day shift because it works better for her family dynamic.
“I have little kids at home and my husband works an 8-to-5 job already,” she said. “So it’s convenient for me to work nights, so I can pick up the kids from school during the day and he can do the other jobs like dropping them off.”
But it doesn’t change the loneliness she and other nurses who work the evening hours can feel.
“I like to get to know families. Sometimes it’s interesting to get to know and see all their kids or see how they react. Sometimes that’s nice,” Fatti said. “We usually don’t get to see the family and get to know the patient’s surroundings. Usually family only comes during the day and by the time we get here they’ve gone home.”
Night shift nurses in Fatti’s department, the short-stay unit at Elkhart General Hospital, work 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. three days a week.
“We don’t get to know them that well because they’re here once to two nights and then they go home,” she said.
The night shift hours are a time when the pace is winding down. Patients that aren’t staying overnight have often already gone home. Patients who are staying are in recovery, or recuperating and don’t generally need much from their nurses. For the night shift nurses, social interactions can be limited.
“(Patients are) tired and they just want to sleep, so we don’t get to know them very well like the day shift does,” Fatti said.
The night shift is lonely, a little bit boring, and long, and on Sunday, it gets even longer as daylight saving time ends and clocks “fall back” an hour.
Western Governors University Indiana is seeking to celebrate night-shift nurses who are often forgotten during all the hubbub of the time shift as the night shift nurses will repeat 2 a.m. on Sunday night.
This year, they’ve prepared the special goodie boxes with fun trinkets including WGU-branded sleep masks, pens and notepads that read “I work night shift. What’s your superpower?” Also included is information about WGU Indiana’s nursing program. The boxes were delivered early to many hospitals around the state not to be opened before 2 a.m. Sunday.
“When the time changes, they get to open the box and there’s all sorts of goodies,” said Lindsay de las Alas, office manager at WGU, serving as liaison for the university’s Night Shift Nurse campaign.
“WGU works really hard to remain strong partners with our local health care organizations, and this is just one way for us to help spread awareness about our programs and help make the nurses feel special. We have a lot of health care nursing students who attend WGU.”
This year, appreciation boxes will be given to nearly 2,700 night-shift nurses at 125 hospitals in Indiana, she said. More than 150 WGU Indiana students and graduates volunteered to put together kits and assist in deliveries. The deliveries will also serve as an opportunity to learn more about WGU Indiana’s $2,000 Night Shift Nurses Scholarship.