A day in the life of an OB/GYN chief resident

It’s 5:50 a.m. and my alarm is buzzing. It’s been going off intermittently since 5:30 a.m. Even though I really don’t need to be out of bed until 6:00 a.m., I’ve lived with myself long enough to know my biggest vice is the snooze button.

I roll out of bed and get ready for the day — blue scrubs, messy bun, enough makeup to feel like I tried, freshly clean teeth and contacts in my eyes (glasses slide down my face threatening the sterile field on OR days). There’s one sleepy baby boy to nurse and two older sisters to kiss goodbye, a husband to wake up for the day and a caffeinated drink in the fridge. I jump in my car and prep for my four-minute traffic-free commute — a drive I’m even more thankful for since the audio in my car broke two years ago when the sunroof started leaking.

At work, I visit with postoperative patients who are ready to go home, write notes and do discharge orders. I text my attending a generic “everybody looks great, sending home” as I walk to pre-op and say hello to patients for today. I spent yesterday afternoon going over charts and making sure I knew what we were doing today and why. It’s a light day in the OR, and I have clinic this afternoon.

Our first case is a dilation and curettage for “missed abortion”; she is ten weeks into a much-desired pregnancy and, for a reason, we probably won’t ever know, her baby stopped growing. She was seen in clinic, and there was no heartbeat. I check on her, address her concerns and reassure her that the grief feelings are normal.

The second case is a hysterectomy for fibroids. She’s had two C-sections and has a moderately enlarged uterus, so we’ve chosen a laparoscopic route ( or TLH — total laparoscopic hysterectomy). I say hello, answer questions and sign paperwork before heading to lecture. Today we’re having “tumor board,” a multidisciplinary meeting with our GYN oncologists jointly attended by nurses, students and specialists from radiology, hematology, oncology, pathology, gynecology, and radiation oncology.

I’m paged to the OR. The first case goes well, despite clear overtones of sadness. I pump milk for my baby between cases then head down for the TLH. We finish operating in time for a quick lunch before I start my clinic. I see a third-trimester obstetrics patient, a new patient with abnormal bleeding, a long-time patient who is coming in for colposcopy (looking at the cervix with a microscope, we do this for evaluation of abnormal pap smears), and a few other patients with various complaints from infertility to postmenopausal bleeding.

After clinic, I quickly check on post-op patients and miraculously find myself leaving just after 5:30 p.m. I make my quiet drive home and pick the kids up at daycare on my way.
I’m on call tonight (every fourth night and every fourth weekend) and so the obstetrics chief resident calls to give me updates on “the board.” It’s looking like a busy, but not overly crazy, night. The night team calls with a couple of questions, but otherwise, I’m able to spend the evening with my family. A

Around 1 a.m., the upper level from the night team calls about a C-section on a laboring patient with chorioamnionitis. She’s been dilated 5 cm for a long time, and her baby isn’t tolerating the infection well anymore. I go in and scrub for the surgery. We deliver a screaming baby boy and manage a minor postpartum hemorrhage. I wish the baby and mama happy birthday and leave them in the capable hands of my labor and delivery team to head home for bed. The rest of the night is mostly quiet until that 5:30 a.m. alarm starts begging me to press the snooze button again.

Danielle Jones is an obstetrics-gynecology chief resident. This article originally appeared in the American Resident Project.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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