Summer Breeze Makes Me Feel Fine

Oh, great now I have that song stuck in my head. Well, I survived another weekend shift at work, though it wasn’t looking too promising around noon on Sunday. Few people understand what we do in sterile processing. I never even knew the job existed before I applied for it. It never dawned on me that somebody has to take care of the surgical instruments and gather all the supplies needed for a surgery.

I didn’t know there were so many different kinds of instruments, and that half of the sets and trays weigh 20 lbs or more. Think of a set of heavy Craftsman tools in a large toolbox. That’s what today’s instruments are. One total knee surgery requires a case cart, about the size of a large dresser, full of instruments, heavy instruments. It takes about 4-6 hours to reprocess and sterilize just one total. Luckily, we don’t do totals on weekends (yet), but for some reason we do a lot of hip surgeries. I don’t know what old people are doing on the weekend to break so many hips, but it keeps the hospital in business.

It’s a very stressful job on the weekend, because we’re there by ourselves, facing the wolves of the operating room on our own. Sometimes they’re nice. Sometimes they’re not. We never know what the schedule will be, how late we’ll have to work over, or if we’ll be called back in later at night. There’s no sugarcoating it. It stinks, but luckily, we only have to do it every 6-7 weeks.

While I’ll still have to work those awful weekends, after four and half years on second shift, I’m finally going to day shift. Hopefully that means I’ll get more sleep. Getting home at 9 o’clock every night gets old really fast. Even if I was having the time of my life, I’d still be exhausted by the end of the week.

The workload is different during the day, so maybe it won’t kill my back so much. The larger cases come back in the late afternoons and slam second shift. It always irked me to see day shift leave just when we started drowning in instruments. They were going out to eat, going to see a movie, taking their dog for an evening walk, while we were left there to die.

They got the best food in the cafeteria. During the pandemic, there was no hot food for second shift. It was unsatisfying salads and stale sandwiches, unless we waited for something to be cooked on the grill. That wasn’t practical since we only have 30 minutes for dinner.

But there were things I liked about second shift. We were more laid-back and got along with each other better. Like soldiers in a foxhole, we were in it together. It was fun dodging the sprinklers on our way to the parking lot during summer nights. We got drenched more than once, but didn’t mind.

I have to laugh when I think about what I thought I’d be able to accomplish during my day before work when I started working second shift. I thought I could run errands, clean the house, cook a fantastic meal, go for walks, and exercise. Ha! Ha! Ha! Mostly, all you do before going to work is sitting in a zombie-like fashion, scrolling endlessly on your phone, and drooling out of the corners of your mouth. My co-workers report the same, so it wasn’t just me.

Our bodies just aren’t designed for night shift. Our minds definitely aren’t. There’s a big price to pay for working nights. I’ve read studies that show that night shift workers die sooner, like 6-7 years sooner!

I’m sure looking forward to being able to enjoy evenings again. When you work nights, all you have are weekends, so you try to cram everything into them. It’s not fun. When working day shift, you have Friday nights to begin your weekend. We got Monday mornings. Oh, boy!

I already have plans for a pool in the backyard this summer. Last year, I had to have one of my beloved trees cut down, after it split in half. Since I now have a very sunny spot in my yard, I’m going to make the most of it. I had a pool there years ago that I enjoyed, until the tree got too large and shaded it too much. Even scooping out dead bugs I found to be very therapeutic in the evening. I’m also looking forward to evening bike rides, instead of only having time on Sunday afternoon.

If you have never worked second or third shift, you don’t know the toll it takes on your life. Really, I think anyone working such hours, should only work 3-4 days a week, so their body has time to heal, …and so they can have a life.

I vow not to become a day shift jerk. I’ll stay over and help, if I see them struggling, because I know how they feel. It’s not easy being second shift.

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