HHC After Dark

Drawing on Each Other to Get Through the Nights

By Libby Marino / Photos by Jeff Evans

The work healthcare employees do every day is hard, physical, and emotional, so why would people add the stress of coming in on a shift that’s opposite the majority of the working world?

Amber Moyer, regional lab manager in the East Region, said there’s a variety of reasons her teams choose to work off-shift, and while much of the work they do is the same as their day shift colleagues, they can face different demands and situations.

“The teamwork that has to happen on second and third shift is really miraculous. They really have to work together to really get it done, and they are great at it. They are an amazing crew,” Moyer said.

Some people, she continued, craft a specific routine and workflow that is most efficient for them at night and like being able to maintain it.

“When you are working with a lot of people, they all do things a little differently and if you don’t like that, it can be challenging. Plus, nights are quiet! It’s just the sound of the analyzers running,” Moyer said.

Nightshift crews, she continued, develop a special camaraderie.

“They have each other to bounce things off of, whereas most of the time on dayshift they have someone in leadership there,” she said.

At Backus Hospital, third shift has just two lab technicians compared to the handful of technologists and phlebotomists working days when clinical departments are also fully staffed.

While clocked in overnight, lab colleagues process the cascade of emergency requests and blood test needs, surrounded by a cacophony of beeping alarms and running feet.

“What they are doing every night is the same thing they do on dayshift, just with less people,” Moyer said.

The operating rooms are closed and patients are resting, so unless a patient is critical or needs specimens collected at very specific intervals, the amount of testing from the inpatient floors overnight is minimal. The overnight lab team does, however, see a lot of blood work and testing from the emergency department.

The skeleton crew processes blood work, urinalysis, COVID-19 testing, microbiology stains for bacteria and blood bank testing, Moyer noted. They’re processed based on orders from the requesting clinician, some routine and others needing a faster turnaround time.

The “graveyard shift” can be tiring, especially for those with family and friends on complete opposite shifts.

“They all have different sleep schedules and different life circumstances that allow for them to maintain connections,” Moyer said of her team. “Some sleep when they get home, some sleep in the afternoon and some take several long naps. They have adjusted to what works best for their lives.”