By: Charlotte Rensberger

In the nursing profession, long shifts are a given, they become a way of life. Most nursing jobs are 12-hour shifts. I am a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and my current schedule is a mix a 12- and 24-hour shifts. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some perks with this schedule, like not having to work 5 days a week, for one. But there are also some challenges, especially with Crohn’s Disease and an ostomy.

Here are some that I have encountered and my tips for how to overcome them:

  1. The shifts are long, and I am tired-I learned to nap. In a 24-hour shift, there may be time to sleep, but there may not be. So, I have learned to be efficient in my tasks and leave time to nap when possible, just in case I don’t get a full night’s sleep at the hospital.

2. There isn’t always time to sit down and eat meals- Graze. Lots of cheese sticks, pepperoni bites, and things that I can eat quickly but still fill me up.

3. Ostomy bags leak sometimes- always have supplies close at hand. In my cupboard at work, I have an abundance of extra supplies and a clean pair of undies. Luckily, I work in scrubs provided by the hospital, so if I leak, I just change scrubs. I also have an emergency bag in my purse, and both cars. One is always nearby.

4. I need water throughout the day to stay hydrated- Carry a handy water bottle. I love ice cold water with ice in it… so I carry an insulated cup on me most of the time to ensure that I get my 84oz of water daily.

5. The odor my ostomy produces is a huge thing for me- Pocket sized air fresheners. I just don’t like the smell, and I am very self-conscious about it. I am always asking my co-workers if I smell funny- a few honest ones are always willing to tell the truth. I tend to spray when I am in public restrooms more than any other time.

One of the big things that allows me to work these shifts is my lifestyle outside of work. I try to make the most of my downtime. Naps are a priority, and a great way to get a little boost mid-day. I have acquired some relaxing hobbies that are helping me to achieve the elusive work-life balance.

Working these long shifts with a chronic disease, and now an ostomy isn’t always fun. I try to keep a sense of humor so that the bad days don’t get me down, and I try to learn from every leak and ostomy mishap, because if I can figure out why something happened, maybe I can prevent it from happening again. I refuse to let my ostomy stop me from living life on my terms, especially at work. I spend a lot of time there, and I am lucky to have a job that I love, and I refuse to let my ostomy take that away from me.

Do you have a career that you love?