7 habits of being on call

1. You sleep when you can. Despite what medical television dramas portray, call room beds are for sleeping. Period. As you curl up into the bed you have no idea whether you are about to get a couple hours of sleep or a couple of minutes, but in that moment of sheer exhaustion, the drab hospital cot or bunk suddenly transforms into a luxurious sleeping pad. Bonus if you can score a blanket from the blanket warmer.

2. Personal hygiene is sometimes compromised during your call night. You may accidentally sleep in contacts (sorry, ophthalmology friends), skip a shower, or wear the same scrubs from yesterday into the next day (no bodily fluids, no problem). We know better, but it happens.

3. You live off whatever scraps of food you can find. When the cafeteria is closed, the doctors’ lounge is the next best place to find something to eat. Unfortunately, by the time the late night munchies hit, the place is pretty cleaned out. If you look hard enough you may be lucky enough to find a few peanut butter packets mixed amongst the pile of condiments. A much-needed protein to add to your graham cracker entrée.

4. One word: caffeine (within safe limits, of course).

5. Your pager is on you at all times and the sound of it gives you anxiety. You have no clue what is behind page number one, two, or three, but you better be ready.

6. You’re superstitious. The “Q” and “S” words are never to be uttered unless you want your “Quiet” or “Slow” night to be flipped upside down. If you’re having a particularly awful night there’s a good chance it’s a full moon. The full moon never fails to deliver you right to the center of craziness.

7. You get a second wind. In the midst of the night, call after call, you are beyond tired, but then you get paged to a code or to admit a really interesting case. Your adrenaline surges and you’re reminded why you signed up for this.

Angela Seabright is a family physician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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