Have you been considering a 24 hour shift rotation? Does the allure of having five days straight available speak to you? Are you considering giving up your 12 hour rotation for a 24 hour rotation? Do you idealize the potential of station cook outs and the absence of interfacility transfers? Not so fast, let’s dissect the perks and potential pit falls of the 24 hour shift rotation. Let this serve as a guide for making a sound decision.
First, gain an understanding of how the company you work with or are considering to work with manages 24 hour units. Have you spoke with those working this rotation? Don’t make an uninformed decision. The last thing you want to do is commit to this rotation and find out the company doesn’t manage 24 hour cars well. You may find yourself in a situation where you are expected to run 24 hours straight. In turn, this could strain your relationship with the company and place you in an unsafe work environment. Or, you may discover that your car completes an average of one call per shift. For many, this sounds fabulous, but for others, this can be a little too uneventful. In addition, the lack of call volume can lead to skill degradation over time.
Next, consider how you would feel waking in the middle of the night to care for sick patients. Are you a deep sleeper? Can you wake instantly and operate an ambulance? Calls in the middle of the night seem to lack a middle ground. You're generally called to very sick patients or those that don’t need your service. The nothing burger can be extremely frustrating when you realize that you woke to care for a patient that didn’t want or warrant your services. Honestly ask yourself if this is something you can tolerate. No one desires a partner who sleeps through tones or becomes so agitated they begin throwing things on the way to a call. The reality is you will be tired. You will have bad days. In some systems, each shift will involve no sleep and potentially no rest.
Another variable to consider is whether you'd be comfortable living in a station, sleeping in a bed someone else slept in the night before, sharing your sleeping quarters, along with a kitchen and bathroom? Are you adaptable and team oriented? How will you deal with someone not washing dishes properly or leaving their mess? Depending on your rotation your may be rooming with others for stretches in excess of 96 hours. Being a roommate will become an aspect of your job description.
What are the potential perks of working a 24 hour rotation?
- Depending on your schedule you may end up with four to five day stretches of off time. This can be great for spending time with friends and family
- If your rotation is fixed this can serve as a great schedule for attending college courses and furthering your education and training
- Your short weeks will provide the ability to plan mini-vacations without taking paid time off
- You will gain a deeper understanding of how the company operates during peak and non-peak hours.
- You will gain more experience responding to emergent 911 calls
- You may gain the luxury of relaxation and enjoy much needed downtime if you are working a low volume station
- Those you share a station and schedule with will become family
What are the potential pit falls of working a 24 hour rotation?
- You may develop chronic fatigue due to an erratic sleep schedule.
- Your first day off could be spent catching up on much needed sleep.
- Depending on your system you may earn less per hour on a 24 hour rotation. Many systems pay employees based on five to six hours of rest per shift. This means a decrease in yearly base income.
- You may find it difficult to find shift coverage. Many employees are not interested in picking up 24 hours of overtime. In addition, employees earning a higher wage on a high response schedule (12 hour car) will be hesitant to earn less for a 24 hour period
- You may find it difficult to gain approval for vacation time due to staffing issues and the nature of your hours
- If paired with a negative or weak partner your shifts have the potential to be stressful and draining. Combing the stress of the job, a poor partner, and fatigue is a pitfall
- Many busy systems utilize 24 hour trucks for interfacility transfers. This could be a pitfall if you are looking for a greater percentage of 911 calls.
- The quality of your documentation and customer service may suffer when fatigued
- Depending on system management and unpredictable call volume fluctuations, safety could become an issue. It will be your responsibility to know when you’re too tried to drive and/or treat patients and report it. It’s always better to shut your car down then to put yourself and others at risk.
May this blog serve as a guide for deciding whether a 24 rotation is the right decision for you.