Saturday, September 20, 2008

Overnight call

As you may know, I am a nurse anesthesia student. Part of my program requirements involves overnight trauma call, and tonight is my night. I'll go in about 6 p.m. and won't finish 'til nearly 8 in the morning (it is supposed to be 7pm to 7am, but there's some overlap).

I spent most of my career as an intensive care nurse working the night shift, often 60 hours a week, so I am very accustomed to being up (and functional) all night. It seems more difficult now that it isn't my normal routine, though. It's a struggle, sometimes, and we can't have coffee in the operating room, and we can't leave the patient unless another anesthesia provider takes over, so you just have to tough it out.

My class has an assigned call room with a desk, a computer, a bed, a couple of chairs and a television, so if I am not busy I can use that room to rest. Lately, however, call has become a marathon operating room session where you are lucky to get 20 minutes to eat somwhere during the 12+ hours. Sigh.

Weeknight calls are actually worse, because they start at 3:30 p.m. and end at 7 a.m. or so, so it's a 16-hour shift. Again, you're often going the whole time, so it can be rough. Those shifts are really bad when you have to come back in for class the same day - you're just a groggy mess.

Still, some of the most interesting cases I've been involved in have come on a call shift, so they remain a good experience in spite of the fact that it feels like two days are wasted - I have to nap pre-call so I can stay up all night, and I have to nap post-call because I've been up all night. The hard part is trying not to sleep all day post-call, because that ruins your sleep-wake schedule for the upcoming week, when it's back to the normal routine - up before the birds and in to the hospital.

Anyway, folks, here's hoping your weekend is more productive than mine! Stay safe!


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