Idiopathic Issues

The Night Shift: A Health Hazard for Veterinarians?

Posted by Lori Hehn on November 30, 2018 at 11:57 AM
Lori Hehn
Lori Hehn is a practicing veterinarian and has a drive for continual learning and enjoys interacting with veterinary and vet tech students. She also writes veterinary learning books for children.

Header-The-Night-Shift--A-Health-Hazard

The night shift is appealing to many people for several reasons. It tends to have a more laid back atmosphere. Even when you are busiest during the rush before midnight, things tend to settle down in the earlier hours of the morning even when you have lots of patients to manage.

The night crew is usually great to work with, at least in most places I have been. It also usually offers better pay and provides a lot of experience, particularly for new graduates, that are looking for hands-on high volume emergency work.

My husband did overnight shifts for several years when our kids were young. He really liked the overnights, but he realized that one can only do that for so long before it begins to take a toll on your body. Did you know that this type of shift work, whether overnights or mid-shifts have been associated with some medical conditions?  

These include increased risk of some cancers, gastrointestinal ulcers, metabolism issues, obesity (29% higher risk), and even heart disease. We are naturally supposed to be awake in during the day and asleep at night.  The obvious thing is that often night shift workers don't sleep enough. Sleep deprivation causes tremendous stress on the body, and disease can be a result of this combination of chronic stress and lack of sleep over time.

Also, our profession is unfortunately known for mental health problems. Stress in practice and compassion fatigue is a hot topic in veterinary medicine. Couple those issues with overnight work and it can be a bad combination for some people. Our circadian rhythm is disturbed when we change our sleeping pattern, which can cause a chemical imbalance; this can lead to or exacerbate depression. Those with mental health issues should consider this before taking an overnight position.

There are pros and cons to every job. For some, overnight work may be a perfect fit, while it may be a disaster for others. It is important to consider all of the factors when looking for a job. 

Have you worked the night shift? What did you like or dislike about it? Post your pearls of wisdom in the comment box below! 

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