Posted on Tue, Oct. 11, 2011
Who hasn’t appreciated the convenience of picking up a prescription antibiotic at 10 p.m. or calling tech support late at night when your computer freezes? As our lives have become more chaotic, most of us have grown used to 24/7 convenience and having our emergencies handled at all hours.
But for the increasing number of employees who provide late-night services, working outside the traditional daytime work hours takes a huge toll on their health and family life. Today about 15 million Americans — the people who come to our rescue at all hours — are shift workers who navigate the balancing act of marriage, childcare and friendships amid irregular sleep and job schedules.
“I’m always exhausted,” says Tiffany Sebregandio, an emergency room nurse at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood.
Eleven years after starting her nursing career on the night shift, she continues to work 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. “I enjoy it,” she says.
Now, with young two children, 1 and 5, Sebregandio often spends her night starting IVs or administering CPR to an accident victim and arrives home just in time to have her 5-year-old daughter tuck her into bed before dad drops her at school.
If all goes well, Sebregandio may get a few hours of sleep before she awakes to run errands, pick up her little guy from daycare, prepare dinner and eat with her family before she heads back to the hospital. If a child is sick or her husband works late, she may have to give up sleep and try to squeeze in a catnap later in the day. “My sleep pattern is all over the place,” she says. “But if I worked the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift, I’d never get to see my kids.”
Last week, I participated in a blogger roundtable by thewakeupsquad.com with three people who work non-traditional shifts — a motorcycle cop, a pilot and an emergency medical services worker. All three could be headed to work when the rest of us are slipping under the covers. They spoke about the challenges of making their lives work on the clock and off. The pilot mentioned he once fell asleep on the job, only to look over and see his co-pilot asleep, too. The motorcycle cop said he relies on his wife to understand that he needs to sleep rather than help with the kids when returning home after long shifts. And the emergency medical services worker, who is married to a firefighter, revealed she has spent many a Christmas or Halloween alone or alone with their kids because her husband was on a shift.