Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I work nights. 

I put a priority on leaving work on time.  The feeling of watching the next doctor walk into the department after a long overnight shift is wonderful. 

I also love to leave a good-looking department for that person coming on to shift.  I love it when the waiting room is empty and the handoff is clean.  I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment as I leave knowing that the day team gets to start with a clean slate and I’ve hopefully made their lives a little easier.

Some days I accomplish both things.

Some days I don’t.

Yesterday was a “don’t” day.  I was working a shift that ended at 5:00 am.  Around 3:00 am the department looked great.  I even had some time to read a little of my book. Then people started to check in.  By 5:00 am things were getting busy. 

I saw a few more people, but, as I looked over the new patients, I knew that anyone else I signed up to take care of would lead to me remaining at work for hours after the end of my shift.  I decided to go home and leave the rest of the patients for the remaining overnight doctor and the day team.

I know that one of the reasons that I’ve been able to continue to work nights for the past 7 years is that I will make the choice to leave.  I do it to take care of myself.  I do it so I can get to sleep on time.  I do it because I know there will always be more patients to see.  I do it to set an example to less experienced staff that being a good doctor doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your priorities.

Making the choice to leave isn’t the issue.  The issue is the guilt I have often subjected myself to after I leave. I seem to love to tell myself that I should have stayed.  I should have seen more people.  I should have worked harder.  I LOVE to tell myself I should have worked harder.  I used to believe that was what motivated me, but the problem with that is, when I put a thought like that into the Thought Model, it doesn’t create a feeling of motivation.  It creates a feeling of guilt, and, sometimes, even shame.

Tough love doesn’t work when it comes to how we talk to ourselves.  That kind of internal, self-flagellating monologue only leads to an emotionally abusive relationship with the most important person in your life, YOU.

So, I decided to stop it.  I made a promise to myself early on in my coaching journey that I would have a zero-tolerance policy for negative self-talk and that includes making myself feel guilt or shame for taking care of my needs.

There will be no more “should haves” when it comes to staying at work or leaving.  I will trust myself to make the best decision in the moment and then I will honor that decision.  I will do that because it feels so much better to know that I have my own back.

If you’d like help with this, please sign up for my free training How To Feel Better On Your Next Shift.  Then keep an eye on your email for upcoming opportunities to work together.