As I finish up my overnight and write this post I will quote my colleague nights are the worst and the best part of being a PEM doc (Mark X Cicero).
While over 15 million americans work overnights we are some of the few with the wonderful “rotating schedule” of nights to days and back to nights.
THE WORST- after a night some of us become the walking dead… and a real life zombie after two in a row! For those of us in academics we have to suffer through meetings and doze off during conversations. As I approach my 40th birthday tomorrow nights are becoming slightly more painful on my body. Sleeping during the day is a challenge for some (fortunately I can still sleep on command day or night). There are lots of data on the health risks of working night shifts (including increase risk of insomnia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, ulcers, depressions and possibly even cancer)– some EDs pay extra for these “hazard hours”. Unfortunately the car ride home can be the most dangerous part of our job.
THE BEST– night shifts provide PEM docs the privilege of working 1:1 with residents as we provide care to patients who are often in the most need with no where else to turn (or parents who are up all night terrified and just need some reassurance). During the summer nights have down time where we can get to know our residents, nursing staff and patients– how often can we spend time playing with a child during a day shift bc no one else is waiting ( however- lately the nights have been busy here thanks to those winter time viruses). They allow us to spend a post-call day with our children or getting out to do something fun (after a brief nap).
What can you do to decrease the dangers of night shifts:
- SLEEP- before the shift and when you get home, get back on a normal sleep schedule the following night
- EAT- while our bodies release messages that make us want fats/candy/donuts we should do our best to eat healthy foods on our overnights
- EXERCISE- sometimes a post-call nap followed by a hike or the gym is easier than getting a work out in on a 9-5 day
- DRIVE SAFELY- consider using public transit, drive with the windows down and radio up, take a nap before driving home
- LIST YOUR OTHER TIPS/TRICKS HERE
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