August 4, 2005, 9:22 pm

Circadian Rhythm Caper

“Department Store Nurse”???

You mean I could have worked for Nordstroms? Saks Fifth Avenue? Neiman Marcus?

All these years I’ve missed out on employee discounts?

What on earth would the job description say?

“Wanted: young, beautiful RN to standby in case someone faints in Hosiery. Ability to pose in white uniform and cap so that doorman can administer side-long ogles a plus. Advanced training in analgesia for headaches secondary to over-enthusiastic fragrance sprayers required”.

I bet she even got to park up front…..


I am so exhausted I can’t feel my fingers on the keyboard.

Why, you ask? Another emotionally exhausting day saving lives? A whirlwind of one emergency after another, juggling critical patient after critical patient with nary a thought for myself, doctors requesting my expertise at every turn and patients clinging to my arm, thanking me for just….being?


I worked a day shift.

Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat.

I am what is known as a night owl, a vampire, a creature of the dark. To me, 0700 is the middle of the night! I don’t even go to bed until 0300 and that’s only if I’m ill. I have not voluntarily worked a day shift in years. It’s easier for me to STAY up until sunrise than to GET up at sunrise. You get the picture. So… when my sick colleague called to ask if I would work a twelve-hour-shift commencing at 0700 this morning I said, “what the heck”!

He’s pitched in for me a few times and it’s so hard to find coverage when you need a day off. I could do this favor.

I thought.


Had I been able to get any sleep, it might have worked.

Early to rise means early to bed, and being the holistic-homeopathic-earth-nature-mother that I am, I decided to dope myself up to high heaven with my drug of choice, Benadryl! Fifty freakin’ milligrams down the hatch.

Nothing. Wide awake. 11:00. Have to get up in four hours. This called for drastic measures. Yes, I went for the Melatonin. Figured “Mel” would meet “Ben” and I’d be comatose.

Nothing. Up to the couch. Two episodes of “Aqua-Teen Hunger Force” on the Cartoon Network. Ever seen that cartoon? It’s a milkshake, a meatball and a large order of fries (with a goatee) who live together. See what you miss going to bed early? Finally, the faint stirrings of fatigue floated into consciousness. I was asleep.


Four hours later I was jolted awake by an alarm playing “Wake Up Little Susie”. Staggered to the mirror. Hair not sticking up. Good. A quick fluff with the blow dryer and I’m outta here. No make up. They’re lucky I put on clothes.

No traffic. Thank god. Too early for rock and roll. Too early for talk radio. Too early for sound.

I dragged my senseless self into my department. Only one patient and she’s ready to admit. Big sigh – time for some coffee to start the day. It is then that I discovered I was scheduled to work with Miss Susie Sunshine, RN! Bright, cheery, energetic, caring, compassionate, competent. She is the sweetest woman I know.

I wanted to wring her neck.

I’ve seen methamphetamine addicts with less energy.


I never did recover.

My patients were great; I only had a few as it was not busy. Spent 90 minutes in a class on JACHO accreditation. Stimulating.


Then my very own Florence Nightengale arrived to take over at 4:00 pm. Bless her everloving heart. I didn’t have to do twelve hours after all. I was released. I was exhausted.

In retrospect, my day was very productive.

I made the decision that I will never, ever do a day shift again.


I learned that you can take the nurse off the night shift, but you can’t take the innate circadian rhythm out of the nurse. I’ll stick to PMs and Nights.

Oh, and I’ll take vacation during JACHO accreditation.


  • Gypsybobocowgirl

    August 8, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    I can relate. I did seven years of nights. I ended up on days purely by accident, and have been on days now for ten years. Fortunately, I have the kind of job where most days I can go in when I want. (Like today, I made it in just before ten). But last week I had to be at work before eight am every day. It sucked.

  • coturnix

    August 16, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    Great writing!!!!

    My wife only works 12h night shifts, too, and likes it just fine. I am even more of a night-owl than she is so we are in sync, i.e., we sleep while the kids are in school. My son is as owlish as I am, while my daughter is “normal”.

    Is your blog listed on Mediblogopathy blog?

  • Kim

    August 16, 2005 at 2:06 pm

    Actually, it isn’t listed on the Mediblogopathy blog…yet. I’m just now getting the word out – wanted to have a few posts up before trying to publicize. I’m having a lot of fun with it!

  • serious

    September 25, 2005 at 12:06 am

    that remembers of my hectic schedule too int he emergency, but in the telecom sector. some of us work in the emergency, which most of the people depend most, we have to do our duty with respect and dedication at all times, even at the cost of our own health!

  • katie

    August 28, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Just checking out your blog and I like it-am pretty new at all this and I am getting addicted.
    I too am a night girl. Always have been even before nursing. Worked 3 day shifts in my career and it was absolute torture! I HATE happy people in the morning! I hate morning….unless I am going to bed. 🙂

  • […] begin my fourth year of blogging in a couple of weeks. I’ll include my second post, entitled Circadian Rhythm Caper. This was the post that caught the eye of Bora, who included a link the week he hosted Grand […]

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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