I have been working the overnight shift at the animal hospital 3-4 nights a week for just over a year, and while I love what I do, the schedule has been wreaking havoc on all facets of my being. The lack of sunlight and normal human sleep schedule have lead to increased depression, decreased diabetes control, a weakened immune system, weight gain, a near-dissolved marriage, a non-existent social life, and weird ass sleep patterns.
Why would I do that to myself?!
I left an extremely toxic work situation to take the overnight shift because it was an opportunity to take a break from the negative influence of other humans. It seems inevitable that veterinary hospitals have a hen house atmosphere that is prone to unnecessary drama, and I don’t do drama.
The job was also a new challenge, which was very appealing to me. I got to learn a whole new dimension of veterinary medicine as well: internal medicine, a specialty whole learning opportunities seem never ending. After a year of intentional studying has only taught me a fraction of what there is to know. I guess that’s why specialty vet school is seven years long.
Anyway, the positives of the job were soon consumed by the negatives, and they were significant negatives. About four months into the job, I talked to my boss about moving me to a day shift position within the clinic, citing my serious health complications with staying on overnights. He said he understood and he would start working on finding someone to replace me so I could move to a day shift. I was hopeful! Then a few weeks passed and I didn’t hear anything. Then a few months passed and I didn’t hear anything. I checked in with him periodically, and he always said, “I’m working on it.”
Meanwhile my health – mental and physical – and my marriage kept deteriorating. In the beginning, I gave myself one year on overnights, for better or worse, and it is important to me to follow through on my word. I just didn’t realize that the “worse” of “for better or worse” was going to be even worse than worse.
At my employee review in November I gave him an ultimatum: Either I’m on a day shift by the end of January (one year after I was hired) or I’m quitting. In the weeks following that ultimatum, he somehow, maybe by magic, came up with 6 resumes for people to potentially fill my position. He told me that he had a day shift position, and I would be switching over just as soon as one of these people was hired. More weeks passed, three people were hired, and my start date for the day shift kept getting pushed back further and further for one reason or another.
Now it’s March, and I’m still working nights. I needed to be off the night shift in January, if not way before. So I gave my boss my two weeks’ notice. Even if he moved me to the day shift tomorrow, I wouldn’t be happy there anymore. The job has eaten too much of my life already, and I’m unable to deal with the stress anymore. So I’m not going to.
I called a general practice clinic I used to work for and asked if I could come back. They were more than happy to have me come back, especially now that I have specialty experience, and they also let me name my own schedule. I start in the middle of March. I will miss the intellectual challenges of working in internal medicine, and I will have to get used to working around other people again (my on-the-job conversational skills have taken a really sad nosedive)(if it doesn’t involve speaking to the animals in Rosie Perez’s voice, I’m lost).
I am also going back to school part time while I’m working, and the schedule at the new/old job will be much better to accommodate my classes. I did all this for myself. I am actively making a better life for myself. My marriage is getting back on track with the help of lots of therapy, my recovery from my recent mental breakdown is slow but steady, I will get to see the sunlight again every single day, which my liver is already pretty psyched about.
I am pushing myself to get to a better place. While this involves a lot of difficult decisions and strength I’m not sure I have, it is all for the sake of getting my health back. I will get to see sunlight again if nothing else, and that feels pretty amazing.