I just finished reading a New York Times article on chronotypes. In other words, your natural biological clock. Your innate sleep / wake cycle. Studies have shown that this hard wired mechanism dictates when you are most alert, active, and creative and when your body insists that you must wind down, sleep, and recharge your batteries. I’ve included a link to the article here.
This “discovery” is a little bit like the “discovery” that dogs have emotions. Something so blatantly obvious to those who have had to buck their normal sleep patterns to accommodate a job schedule and respectively, who have shared their lives with canine companions, that the only response can be – “No duh.”
One of the great things about being a veterinarian is that there is a work shift for every chronotype. As a relief vet, you can pick not only the weekly or monthly schedules that fit your needs but also choose the shifts that allow you to operate within your natural rhythms. Full day shifts, half day shifts, swing shifts, or overnights. There is something for everyone and all of these shifts need filling all over the country.
I’m a lark. One of, according to the article, 40% of the population who pops out of bed, slurps down the fresh morning worms, (er…coffee), and starts singing a song. Actually, I can’t sing since I’m married to a night owl. But I do quietly fire up my computer at 5 am and blissfully revel in the calm, quiet morning atmosphere.
I occasionally sample the life of a night owl by working swing or overnight shifts. There is a different mood, a unique subset of cases and clients, and sometimes the exciting, giddy feeling of bonding with the night owls and experiencing conscious life as it unfolds under the night sky. This definitely goes against my natural rhythm since around 9 pm visions of pj’s and pillows dance in my head. But I can power through, just like all the naturally nocturnal folks who must adjust to society’s overall preference for day activities. As fun and interesting as working the overnight can be, this will never be my regular gig since it is too outside my biological norm.
But for you night owls out there, this is a fantastic way earn a living and support your natural rhythms. There are oodles of swing and overnight shifts available since these seem to be harder to fill and the pay is often better too. You can work when you’re “on” and sleep more or less when your body tells you it’s time. Since emergency work often comes with long shifts and better hourly pay, many can work fewer shifts in a week or month to open up more free time in their lives for other activities or responsibilities.
So are you a lark singing with the morning sun? Or a night owl whose eyes are adjusted to seeing the beauty in the dark? Or maybe you are somewhere in between. Whatever your chronotype, there are patients who need to be cared for when you are at your best.