Surviving the night shift

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

To selflessly raise national awareness of the newly re-proven sleep vulnerabilities and resulting health risks shouldered by long-term care night shift workers, I'm writing this at 2 a.m.

Actually, I can't honestly claim this as a noble choice, since I'm often up at this hour. At least our staff members are putting themselves in harm's way for a good cause, caring for the nation's seniors. The only frail and vulnerable person I'm awake to care for is me.

On a typical night, I lie there staring wide-eyed into the darkness, with the coming day's challenges and previous day's regrets swirling around me like Oz-bound Dorothy in the tornado. I've tried counting sheep, but as a pastor's son blessed and/or cursed with deep Bible knowledge, whenever I get to 99 there's always one missing and I can't rest until he's safely back in the fold.  

From the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear disasters to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, sleep deprivation has been blamed for some exceedingly bad outcomes. And now in a new study highlighted by McKnight's, more than 60% of night shift workers reported “poor sleep quality, insomnia and impaired sleep-related activities of daily living.” Reading those words, I had two reactions: 1) how troubling and sad, and 2) these are my people!

Really though, it's no joking matter, as those who work nights have also been shown to be at higher risk for a frightening basket of deplorable conditions, including Alzheimer's, stroke, heart attack and diabetes. So the responsibility falls heavily on long-term care managers to do everything possible to help our late-shift folks survive their chosen profession with as little personal injury as possible.  

Fortunately, there's good news too. Apparently the brain, like the heart, is a resilient little muscle, and bounces back nicely after a few hours of catch-up and recovery rest.

So please encourage every night employee to strap on the black-out glasses, stuff in the earplugs, muzzle or sedate the children, shush those annoyingly cheerful birds, disconnect the doorbell, create a soundless perimeter of traffic cones and road closure signs, disable all neighborhood lawn mowers and leaf blowers, halt all overhead air travel—and finally get some sleep.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the 2014 Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.


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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.