Ivan Sanchez, MLS(ASCP)CM
After countless hours of reading, studying, and preparing for your Board of Certification (BOC) exam you finally pass and get your MLS certification. Phew! Now you begin the process of getting your first MLS job. Time to work on your resume, fill out applications, and brush up on your interview skills. This is what you worked so hard for.
During the application process you know getting a morning shift is not likely (especially when it’s your first job) but you have your eyes set on an evening shift. As you start your job hunt you see an uncomfortable phrase, “Evening or NIGHT SHIFT.” This may not be your first choice, but you need a job, so you decide to apply for it anyway. You’ll probably get an offer for an evening shift anyway, right?
You go to your interviews, come out feeling great, and wait for the call. You finally get it and they make you an offer… for the night shift. Intimidated? Maybe. Excited? Probably not. Does this sound familiar? Well, you won’t be the first, and certainly not the last, in this situation.
Depending on where you live this may be something that happens to you—the only shift with demand may be night shift. I currently live in San Diego, and that was a reality many of my graduating classmates (including myself) had to face. Many of us had mentally prepared to get an evening shift position because getting a morning position would be difficult. I applied and got an offer for night shift. Ultimately, I decided to bite the bullet and take the offer.
Night Shift Perks
I have now been working night shift for more than seven months and am glad I took the opportunity. I understand why night shift has a bad reputation; you sleep odd hours and you are up when 90 percent of people are asleep. However, from a career stand point, working nights has perks too.
A big perk that should be stressed is you are a true generalist. It is a great way to get your feet wet in many departments before you decide to specialize. You are also more in control of patient care since you are responsible for larger portions of a patient’s work up.
Volume may be lower during the night, but staffing is also minimal, so you will have to adapt to cover more departments and think on your feet. One minute you may work on a routine CBC when suddenly a stroke code is called and now you must change gears and focus on the code patient. Can it get chaotic? Sometimes it can. However, you evolve with the environment and you learn to prioritize what is important and how to prepare for possible scenarios.
Personal and Career Growth
I work in a large trauma II medical campus with a busy emergency department, so my experience is most nights have steady work. When I first started I was really intimidated by the workflow, but over time I became more independent and resourceful. The environment slowly became less intimidating. I developed my own foolproof way to stay organized and prepared if an emergency were to occur. After a few months I have drastically refined my multi-tasking ability, significantly improved my reasoning under stress (as well as keeping calm), and vastly reinforced my knowledge in all routine departments.
There are nights when one department gets more problems than others, so staff relocates accordingly. Hematology may receive several body fluids at once and they need to be resulted STAT. So, you may assist with the body fluids or momentarily cover another department while someone helps with them. Perhaps a chemistry analyzer goes down during the night and the chemistry MLS must troubleshoot it while you assist with keeping workflow going. The time I have spent on night shift has also let me develop close ties to my co-workers since we work so closely together—getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and understanding each person’s style of work.
Night shift is an excellent opportunity to challenge and affirm yourself as an independent MLS while honing the many skills required to work the bench. By the time you are done with night shift you will have a concrete idea about the departments you prefer to work in and the area in which you would like to specialize, if that is the path you decide to take. You are also much more marketable with your generalist experience.
Consider night shift as an option for you. Will it be challenging? Definitely. Some days you’ll have to make critical decisions on your own. Is it hard to adjust to the lifestyle? It takes time, but you will adjust. Will the rewards outweigh the cons? Without a doubt.