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Night Shift is Causing Panic Attacks

Nurse Beth   (386 Views 5 Comments)
by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Advice Column) Writer Innovator Expert

Nurse Beth has 30 years experience as a MSN and specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho.

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Dear Nurse Beth,

Almost 3 years a nurse. I found a hospital (call it Big Time Hospital) that I absolutely love. I work night shift currently. About 8 months into it on a med surg floor I was facing a really stressful situation, and the issue only got worse after management asked to see me about it. The next week I found myself in the same situation - I had a panic attack and had to go to the ED.

A month later, I was perfectly fine during my shift. I had no anxiety, patients were fine, and I was calm- except I was a little sweaty. I asked another nurse if they felt if it was warm in the floor, they said no. I wasn’t stressed out nor was I burned out. My iWatch dinged me with a message: “Your heart rate has been 130 for the past 10 minutes.” I grabbed s pulse ox and it was 133. I requested to go to ED. Dr thought it was my diabetes and diuresing too much with not enough fluid intake. They gave me 2 saline blouses and sent me off.

The next day I called off since I had trouble breathing and went back to the ED. They admitted me and did a full cardiac work up. Stress test was positive, heart cath only showed mild CAD - no stents or balloons needed. Drs in the WD before being admitted was certain I had s PE. They did a CT and said I haft the clearest lungs for a 40ish year old they ever saw, 

As much as I like night shift, I feel like my body can no longer handle night shift. Since I was not stressed nor anxious, this was purely a physical problem I never faced and I listened to what my body was saying and immediately got seen. 

The issue I am facing is that I am trying to switch to day shift, and to a different floor but I cannot find open positions on dayshift. I had to cut out my caffeine which used to keep me up and now two months later I still cannot physically function on night shift. 

I really don’t know what path I should take right now- should I just wait until a day shift position opens? Should I contact my doctor to evaluate me and give me a medical reason to accommodate me to switch shifts (that would also involve HR to make accommodations)? I have no problem with my nursing care with patients- the main issue is struggling to stay alert while charting- I’ve honestly tried everything- standing, drinking water instead of other things, walking, etc. I enjoy night shift? But I feel like it’s putting too much physical strain on my body after this event. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Dear Wants Day Shift,

It's possible that you may still have panic attacks/tachycardia/dyspnea if you switch to day shift. Your first episode, the panic attack, started after a stressful event at work, following 8 months of no symptoms.

At the same time, some people cannot tolerate night shift and it is hard on the body. You can wait until there's an opening and apply. You could ask your doctor for a note restricting you to day shift, but the risk is that they do not have to accommodate you and may let you go.

It is best to find another position before quitting altogether, as it's harder to find a position when unemployed.

Best wishes, 

Nurse Beth

Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

 

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not.done.yet has 8 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development.

5,530 Posts; 44,652 Profile Views

Your symptoms sound similar to mine when I am hypoglycemic. Did they check your blood sugar? Just curious. So many of these things have wide crossover.

I had to get off nights due to having PVCs and trigeminy. After a thorough work up my cardiologist said I could not tolerate night shift. I still get occasional PVCs but nothing like it had been. My manager granted me the next day shift opening that came along, which was 3 months later.

I would vote you seek assistance and treatment for your panic attacks while awaiting an opening on days. I hope you feel better. Panic attacks are definitely no fun.

 

 

 

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469 Posts; 2,283 Profile Views

When I get stressed I get heart irregularities, I assume PVC's and sometimes an regular irregular beat.  Which makes me feel very weird.  I therefore try not to get stressed.  Nightshift can be a beast for some people, sounds like you like it but your body doesn't.  Day shift can be much more stressful.  Labs, xrays, other procedures, all sorts of staff including doctors, visitors and patients are awake and on their lights.  It certainly is not fun and maybe be just as bad for you as night shift.  If I were you, I would try clinic work.

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865 Posts; 5,971 Profile Views

Can you work 8 hour shifts, like 4 so you aren't up as long?, until the dayshift opens up.

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865 Posts; 5,971 Profile Views

5 hours ago, Forest2 said:

When I get stressed I get heart irregularities, I assume PVC's and sometimes an regular irregular beat.  Which makes me feel very weird.  I therefore try not to get stressed.  Nightshift can be a beast for some people, sounds like you like it but your body doesn't.  Day shift can be much more stressful.  Labs, xrays, other procedures, all sorts of staff including doctors, visitors and patients are awake and on their lights.  It certainly is not fun and maybe be just as bad for you as night shift.  If I were you, I would try clinic work.

Dayshift is the first beast, and night shift is the 2nd. You made a good point. It is like trading one thing for another but both are from the same coin, just two different sides of it.

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