What It’s Really Like Working The Graveyard Shift

A man in an office at night

I would not trade working in a hospital setting for anything. Whenever I go to work, I see something interesting and get to listen to a new story. I would tell you more about it, but healthcare employees fear the wrath of God and HIPAA equally. The only time I have ever seen a cubicle is in the film “Office Space,” and I only have one skirt-suit hanging in my closet. I get to walk around all day, which works wonders for that adult ADHD. My work attire includes glorified pajamas and tennis shoes, and I’ve never spent money on a dry cleaning bill. The thought of spending excessive time before work on my hair or makeup is laughable. I live in a city with some of the most horrendous traffic in America–or so I have heard–but I drive to and from work at such nontraditional hours that I almost never hit rush hour.

The only real drawback to this type of employment is the dynamic of trying to have a social life with friends who are employed in the 9 to 5 world. I am definitely not going to make that happy hour on Thursday at 5 p.m. Or that birthday dinner on Saturday. Or that New Year’s Eve party. Working graveyards means developing the daily routine of a bat. “Good Morning America” is more like my external cue to go to sleep. My coffee maker is set to brew at 5 p.m. and my dog gets his morning walk at 3:30 p.m. “Maybe I’ll catch up with friends and family when I get home from work,” I think. Oh wait a minute–nobody wants to hear from anyone that early in the morning.

You can live with your significant other, but if he works a 9 to 5 job and you work graveyards, you can sometimes go three days without seeing each other. You would just have to interpret the moving coffee mugs and pillow creases as a sign that your significant other is alive and also coming and going from the apartment. This is not necessarily a bad thing. You rarely get stuck in the dreaded “Groundhog’s Day” of “How was your day?”

Having such a nontraditional schedule means you have to make it a priority to make plans and follow through. You cannot think to yourself, “we’ll just reschedule for the weekend,” because to you, the weekend may mean Tuesday. It also means that finding that random time that fits in both your schedule and your friend’s schedule is reason enough to celebrate and enjoy the company.

While you may dread having to work on a holiday, you know you will not regret taking that shift when you get to work. There is something about a holiday that brings out the best in people. That coworker of yours who makes amazing baked goods will inevitably pull out all the stops for any holiday and the break room will turn into the Willie Wonka Factory of casseroles and desserts (well, more so than usual).

When it comes to talking with your friends about each other’s lives, you can just assume that they don’t want to hear about your job. I’ve found that, generally speaking, most people grow queasy at the mention of infection, fractures, or just about any other medical phenomena. All things considered, that can be good.

As for your friends? You know that they are secretly jealous of your scrubs. As for your neighbors? They love you because you will never be the one in the apartment complex moving furniture in the middle of the night. And as for you? The hours may be unconventional, but the nature of the work makes it all worthwhile.

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Brown rice. Black beans. Barbacoa. Both Salsas. Corn. Cheese. Guac. Lettuce.

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