Friday 10 February 2012

The Shift workers diet......

We all work shifts. Crap shifts at that. A steady mix of earlies, lates and nights. It is of no surprise a large number of EMS staff suffer insomnia. A constantly changing sleep pattern ruins your body clock and when rotas (like mine) have a mix of all earlies, lates and nights on one run of shift it is of no surprise we are permanently tired. 

The Early Shift

Generally an early shift is 06:00-18:00 or 07:00-19:00. That means you normally have to get up between 04:30 and 05:30. You WILL be tired. Fact. I am rarely compelled to make my lunch at this time of the day. The shift then last for 12 hours, without a break. You WILL be late off, usually between 45 minutes and an hour. That means generally you'll be getting home at around 19:30-20:30 on a normal day. 15 hours after you got up. It can be a lot worse. Trust me. You then get changed and eat. It's now pretty much bed time. I am never usually compelled to make my lunch for the next day.

The Late Shift

Late shift times vary greatly. They can start any time between 11:00 to 18:00 and can finish anytime between 23:00 and 03:00 but normally between 01:00 and 03:00. The shift lasts between 9 and 12 hours depending on your rota. You WILL be late off. You still don't get a break. You get more sleep and feel less tired, although, saying that, on 03:00 finishes you get home about 04:30 so it feels like a night! (see The Night Shift). I am more inclined to make lunch before my late shift but even then it is a rarity. 

The Night Shift

Some people love them. Some people hate them. I love to hate them. During a run of night shifts you make peace with the fact you won't see anyone, talk to anyone, do an washing, ironing, cooking or anything productive. Write those days off. Nights are either 18:00-06:00 or 19:00 or 07:00 and the same rules for finish late apply. As do the 12 hours with out a break. The shift feels too long. You WILL be tired. Especially on the first one. Generally when you get home after the first shift you have been on the go for 24 hours. You then sleep longer to compensate, losing the ability to prepare your food for the remaining shift. On nights I normally get up between 15:00 and 16:00. I eat, I shower, I dress and I leave.

We also have a shocking diet. There is little time or inclination to prepare a lunch. If we want hot food we have to buy it because the hospitals don't let us use their microwaves. What hot food can be purchased between in the middle of the night? Fast Food. The McFried King. The staple diet of ambulance staff. We end up scoffing food at a lightning pace between or on route to jobs with no time to digest properly. The concept of sitting at a table of sorts and eating a healthy hot meal is unheard of. Not only is this hugely unhealthy it is vastly expensive. I decided to write down what I ate and what I spent during a run of 6 shifts before Christmas. I wouldn't say my findings are uncommon at all but it did shock me. It's easy to promise yourself you'll change and you do, for a week or so, but one late finish and a bad job and it all goes to pot! 

Tuesday 06:00-18:00 (45 mins late off, no break)

Costa: Vanilla Latte £2.85

BP Garage: Chicken Salad Sandwich, Crisps and Drink £3.49
Subway: 6" Lunch deal £3.00

 Wednesday 06:00-18:00(1 hour late off, no break)

Costa: Vanilla Latte £2.85
Tesco Metro: BLT sandwich, pasta pot and drink £5.27
Vending Machine: Drink, crisps and chocolate £2.20

Thursday 18:00-03:00 (40 mins late off, no break)

Costa: Vanilla Latte x 2 £5.70
Packed Lunch: Ham rolls, quiche, pasta, biscuits, fruit, yogurt and drink. £6 ish
Burger King: Bacon double cheeseburger @ 02:00 (Oops!). £4.29

Friday 18:00-03:00 (2 hours late off, no break)

Costa: Vanilla Latte £2.85
KFC: Fully loaded meal £4.89
Off Licence: Sweets, drinks, and other crap to share. £5.82

Saturday 18:00-06:00 (45 minutes late off, no break)

Costa: Vanilla Latte £2.85
Dominoes: Large Texas BBQ to share (my turn to pay) £15.99
BP Garage: Drink and chocolate. £3.45

Sunday 18:00-06:00 (45 minutes late off, no break)

Costa: Vanilla Latte x 2 £5.70
McDonalds: McChicken Sandwich meal £3.29
Off Licence: Crap. £4.12

Total Hours: 71 hours 55 minutes
Total Breaks: None
Total Spend: £84.61

Wow! The awkward moment realise your diet is shit, your arteries are clogging and you're one burger away from an AWA (Ambulance Woman's Arse)


  1. can't understand why we're not even allowed the use of a microwave at hospitals... it's inhuman really. liking your blog. cheers!

  2. Great blog post and true in everyway . All I can say is


    do we keep doing it.........

  3. Brilliant blog and how brave writing down your food intake - I'm still too ashamed to admit half of what I eat!!

  4. Why in earth aren't you allowed to use their microwaves?

  5. When I was a junior doctor I lost so much weight. I have serious food allergies and so if I didn't manage to make lunch, I was living off costa & chocolate. I remember the anticipation of the glamourous qualified life that awaited me when I was sitting final exams at uni. My first 9-9 in a busy city centre A&E soon dispelled those myths!

  6. Wow. My nights used to be 2200-0700 and they were never mixed with other shifts. A 50-odd hour week looks easy compared to what you're having to put up with.

    The worst part is the public and media know how bad public sector workers are treated but nobody seems to give a shit.


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