All Work And No Sleep
By Adriana Lorenzo
You can be categorized as a night owl or an early bird. There are even entire cities that are jokingly referred to as ones that never sleep. Then there are the rare groups of people that are busy at work as the rest of the country sleeps. As the majority of America is settling into their pajamas and curling up under their covers, the night shifts commence.
Yamile Gloria, center, and hospital co-workers.
Yamile Gloria, 23, is a registered nurse in the Pulmonolgy Division of the Miami Children’s Hospital, and has been working the night shift for the last two years. “On a typical work day, I will get to work around 6 p.m. and not be home until 8 a.m. the next morning,” says Gloria. “So there is nothing typical about my work day really. My hours are long and weird, and my schedule never coincides with any of my friends and family.”
Immediately after graduating from the University of Miami, Gloria landed this job, which was exactly in the field she was interested. She would be working with children, and the pay and benefits were ideal. The only catch? She would be working the dreaded night shift.
“At first I couldn’t picture myself working such crazy hours, but I felt it was a small price to pay for having my dream job,” says Gloria. “Sure, I have had to reschedule my life around my odd hours, but every minute and sleep deprived night has been worth it.”
The hospital is undeniably a prestigious place of employment in Miami. On the Miami Children’s website, the hospital prides itself as “South Florida’s only licensed specialty hospital exclusively for children” and is “renowned for excellence in all aspects of pediatric medicine with several specialty programs ranked among the best in the nation in 2008 by US News & World Report.”
Landing the job was the perfect pay off for Gloria, who had been working very hard in nursing school. As a registered in the Pulmonology Division, Gloria works with children ranging in ages from newborns to about 18 years old, who suffer from illinesses as common as asthma to more serious conditions like cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis and pneumonia.
“Working with kids is the best part of my job,” Gloria says. “It breaks your heart to think of a sick child, but the most rewarding part of my job is that I get to help these kids through their illness. It is the most satisfying feeling to know I am making a difference in a child’s life.”
But not every story of every child Gloria encounters has a happy ending. As expected in a hospital setting, Gloria and her colleagues have had their share of heartbreak and disappointment.
“The worst nights for me have been when a patient takes a turn for the worse, or even worse, has passed away,” Gloria says. “We have made bonds with these children and their families, and of course have been working extremely hard to return them to perfect health.”
Gloria recalls one very difficult particular nigh. A young girl that had been a long-term patient at the hospital lost her battle with a serious and rare disease. “This girl was amazing. She was young but had such a positive attitude and always had a smile on her face,” says Gloria. “Losing a patient is never easy, but this loss really shook me up. It’s hard not to feel emotionally involved in these children’s lives, and seeing her parents’ suffer was so hard.”
One perk of Gloria’s unconventional schedule, however, is she often gets a couple of days off during the week. “I might work both Friday and Saturday night shifts, but then I will have off some other days,” she says. If someone wants to make plans with her, their best bet is to get her on a day off. “I can’t really go out to dinner or a movie on a weeknight usually. I use my days off to catch-up with friends, or do some shopping and other errands.”
Three in the morning hits, and Gloria hits a slump in her night. “After midnight, especially on slower nights, I start feeling pretty tired. Some nights are harder than others, but it definitely helps having my other nurse friends in the same boat with me.”
Gloria had some words of wisdom for any nurse, doctor or other professional who could someday work a night-shift. “Sleeping during the day is going to feel strange at first, but catching up on sleep is very important in staying sane.”
When asked what her ultimate secret weapon for staying awake was, Gloria laughed and answered, “endless cups of coffee, and definitely never touching decaf.”