Nur Dalilah Binte Jani, 25, is a staff nurse at Mount Elizabeth Hospital and works four night shifts every two to three weeks. While morning and afternoon shifts last eight hours, night shifts last around 10 hours, typically from 9pm to 7.30am.
“I joined Mount Elizabeth Hospital in 2014. I’m currently a staff nurse and midwife in the delivery suite, so I attend to pregnant patients and labouring mothers.
Rotational shift work can be very tiring because of the ever-changing sleep schedule. A common misconception is we can just fall asleep as soon as we get home, but in reality, it can take a fair bit of time to unwind first. We also have to try to avoid sleeping in too much on an off day, even if we’ve just completed a night shift, so we can adjust our sleep cycle for the next shift.
When I’m working the night shift, I’ll aim to sleep between 10am and 11am and wake up between 2pm and 3pm. I’ll then try to catch another one or two hours of sleep before 6.30pm.
It’s impossible to say if the morning shift is necessarily busier than the night shift since labour and delivery can be very unpredictable, but the night shift is generally more challenging because we have to stay alert even if we feel tired. However, I’ve never really struggled with fatigue because when an emergency happens, the adrenaline kicks in and I’m able to snap into focus immediately. It helps that we get to take a short nap whenever there is a lull period.
The irregular work hours do make me feel like I’m ‘missing out’ sometimes, especially when it comes to social gatherings, but my family members and friends have been really supportive. They also don’t complain about having to accommodate my schedule when we make plans.
Nonetheless, shift work provides a significant degree of flexibility in its own way. For example, I can go for driving lessons in the morning before taking on an afternoon shift. And when I have a weekday off, I can run errands, accept home deliveries and book appointments with ease. I can also go out on a weekday without having to squeeze with the crowds. Regardless of my shift, I try to spend at least half an hour with my family each day.
There will always be days when I prefer shift work for its flexibility, and days when I wish for more regular working hours so I can spend more time with my loved ones. But when the going gets tough, it’s knowing that whatever I do helps keep a mother and her newborn baby safe and well that keeps me going.”