If you're like most nurses, you get asked this question a lot, and you always respond the same way. But let's examine this subject a little closer and delve into what it's really like to work "ONLY" three days a week.
One truth is that it is quite wonderful to have four free days off. But the reality is that by the time you've worked three-12-hour shifts you're absolutely exhausted, and it takes you one full day to completely recover. Your body aches and your mind is completely fried.
One thing that you usually don't mention to your friends is that you do have a very stressful job, and you spend most (if not all) your shift on your feet. Pulling, pushing, lifting, walking and running are all a big part of a nurse's job. So by the time you reach home-sweet-home you feel like you've been hit by a bus, and that's just the physical part.
Caring for patients all day and having their lives in your hands is extremely stressful. Juggling patients needs with families, nursing managers and the ever needy physicians is enough to make you want to jump off a cliff the first chance you get. Add charting to this mix and you have enough stress to seriously consider checking into an insane asylum.
The wonderful news is that in the three days that you're working, the house became a pig sty. Dirty dishes are piled up to the ceiling, and dirty clothes are everywhere and no one seems to know how to pick up after themselves. "Leave it for Mom! She gets a lot of time off."
So you spend one day recovering from the three shifts from hell and another day cleaning up after the filthy trolls in your house (yourself included). But that still leaves you with two whole days to do absolutely nothing, right? Wrong! Most weeks you don't really get all four days off because there's usually some call involved and when it's your turn to be on call it never fails. You will be called to go to work, right as you're sitting down at a nice restaurant with your family!
If you happen to work night shift, this is another kind of hell, in a league of its own. The first day you have off is spent either sleeping all day or trying to stay awake in a crazy attempt to sleep like "a normal person" on your days off...never works, does it? Then you get to have even more fun trying to adjust your schedule on the night you return to work. What a blast!
The weirdest thing of all is this: No matter how bad your week goes, you don't mind going back for more. Because the truth is, you love what you do and wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China. As physically and mentally challenging as it may be, you freaking love being a nurse and can't imagine doing anything else.
Yes, it can be very difficult at times. But when you see your patients get well under your care, it makes it all worthwhile. If they thank you on their way out the door, that's just icing on the cake.
So the next time someone asks you how nice it is to work three days a week. Tell em you love it! Cause that's the "real truth."
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