Work schedules

When we were students, many students, including my wife would, on occasion, pull “an all nighter.” They would be working on a project and as the deadline approached, would work straight through the night without sleep. I never acquired that skill. In the first place, I am a compulsive person who generally beats deadlines. Yesterday I scrambled to make sure that I had all my notes in place for Monday’s service, even though it was only Friday. If I had not had them in place, there are several blocks of time during which I could work on them, and I may make some adjustments and changes, but I am ready to go right now. I have four services before that one, but it just the way I work. As a result, I usually had college papers finished and typed in final form several days before the deadline.

The other reality about all nighters is that I have never been able to stay away all night. I remember that when we were kids our parents would give us permission to stay up until midnight on a couple of special occasions such as new year’s eve. My brothers and sisters would stay up, playing games and eating snacks and I would give up and go to bed. On the few occasions when I did manage to stay up, I didn’t literally stay up, but dozed and woke to watch the ball fall on the television and yell “Happy New Year.” We live in the Mountain Time Zone, but I observe New Years on Eastern Time and I’ve been known to catch it on the computer when it occurs in Australia, where it is midnight when it is mid day here.

It is not that I sleep more than other people. I am good at waking in the middle of the night and getting up to respond to a crisis. I can get by with smaller amounts of sleep than is typical. Although I’ve noticed that I need a bit more sleep now than was the case 20 or 30 years ago, I still am pretty good at gaining a bit of extra time by rising early in the morning.

I have had many different work experiences, but I’ve never done shift work. Hanging around with law enforcement officers, I’ve gained appreciation for those who do that work, having to adjust their lifestyles to sleep during the day so that our community has coverage around the clock. In my imagination, I think I could adjust to that kind of schedule without too much problem, but it is purely theoretical. I haven’t ever tried it.

When we travel long distances I seem to be quite similar to others in terms of how much time it takes me to adjust to jet lag. A couple of nights of being awake at the wrong time and I am usually adjusted to the new time zone quickly.

At the hospital, where it is essential that coverage be continuous, there are all kinds of different schedules. The hospitalists seem to work 12 hour shifts with 7 days of work followed by 7 days off. The nurses also work 12 hour shifts, but work 3 days on followed by 4 days off. Then they cover by working an extra day from time to time. The result is that there is a lot of change in staffing. A patient who has been in the hospital for five days can have been seen by four hospitalists and a dozen nurses. I haven’t yet figured out how they divide up what areas in the hospital different employees work. they are good at keeping all of the areas staffed, but there is a huge turnover of staff. It is a good thing that they all wear name tags and that there is a marker board in each patient’s room where they write their names, because learning all of those names when you aren’t feeling well would be a huge challenge. Add to that the fact that the average patient sees people from transport, lab, and a variety of diagnostic specialties and a stay in the hospital involves meeting a constant stream of people who had not previously met.

It makes working in a church, with a constantly-changing congregation a piece of cake when it comes to remembering names.

I used to think that remembering names was a natural talent, and it is true that some people are better than others, but I’ve learned that it is also an acquired skill. I am capable of learning and remembering people’s names and when I focus on the task, I can improve my skill. In general my memory is not as strong as it once was, but I think I’m a bit better with names than was the case a few years ago. That may be just my perception, but I think I’m right.

I woke early this morning, ahead of the alarm clock. I felt well rested and ready to tackle a long day with many events and obligations. My schedule has been disrupted a bit this week, but I’ll need all of my energy for the next three days. It helps to feel good at the start of the marathon. However, I have no intention of pulling any all nighters. I expect to be in bed and sleeping at the usual time for the next few nights. I’ve got my notes in order and I’m ready for the work that lies ahead.

Of course my days are never completely predictable. There will be changes in schedule, new demands for my time, interruptions and encounters with people who need to talk more than I anticipated. That’s the way of my life. I’ve learned to reprioritize my task list over and over again. I’ve also learned to go to sleep when there is work that is undone. That is a very useful skill when the job is bigger than I. One thing about my vocation, I’ll never run out of work.

I thank God for that meaningful work. It is a blessing that makes sleeping an easy task.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!