Night of the Living Dead

As we have no doubt told all of you who will listen, Eric and I are on night float this month. It is the most dreaded of all residency rotations, probably for good reason. I also did a month in February, and meant to post a blog about it then but I was too tired. Basically, for the entire month I go in to work at 5pm, cover Labor and Delivery, the ER, the GYN patients, and the Oncology patients, and finish up at 7am. This happens Sunday through Thursday, 14 hour shifts. I bike home, crash onto my bed, sleep fast, wake up, bike back to work, repeat story. Eric's shifts are similar: 7pm to 7am, covering all family medicine patients admitted to the U of MI. We are actually glad to have lined up our schedules so that, for the last two weeks of May, we are both on night float at the same time. Maybe we don't see each other all that much more, but at least we can sleep in the same bed at the same time. Yeah, night float is hard. By the grace of God, we're getting through it. There's even some laughter involved. We were talking about some of the more weird, surreal parts to night float today.

1. The day becomes a new day while you're still at work. We have to sign tons of stuff in the medical world. The hardest part for me is knowing what date to sign. I go in to work on, say, May 21. While I'm still working that same shift, suddenly it's the 22nd. I go home, sleep, come back to work. Should be a new day...but still, the 22nd.

2. Breakfast all the time. So, I wake up at 3:30pm to "start my day." What meal starts the day? Breakfast, of course. Then I get to work, and it's especially busy until after midnight, usually. Take a break at 2am, go down to the cafeteria. Now, let me tell you, if you think hospital cafeteria food is bad, you really have no idea how bad it can get until you go down for the night shift. The food is leftover from earlier that day and has been heated up who knows how many times. Suddenly the prepackaged bowls of cereal are starting to look good. Then, end of the shift, early morning, seems like breakfast time. A little yogurt, a little cereal, there you have it.

3. Marching bands. I kid you not, I woke up this afternoon and said to Eric, "I had this really weird dream that I could hear a marching band coming down our street while I was lying in bed." And he replied, "that wasn't a dream. They were playing 'From the Halls of Montezuma.'" And they had been! What the heck? Why was a marching band walking through our neighborhood on a Thursday afternoon in May? Who knows, but I'll bet most people, who sleep at night, don't get woken up from a deep sleep by marching bands.

4. Answering Service calls. It never ceases to amaze me what people will call a doctor for at 2:00 in the morning. Eric is writing a blog on this currently, so see our other post here. But in short, I am astounded by people who not only call, but come in to our emergency labor and delivery unit for something like, I've had a sore throat for 2 weeks and it's not getting better, so I thought I'd come in. It's THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING! The sleep that you're missing by coming in right now is probably what will help you recover the best. Amazing.
5. Emails. Really, a big downside to night float is that you're cut off from the rest of the world. It's difficult to call people when you get a break, because you know that they'll be asleep...and when they're awake, you're asleep. So I've resorted to primarily using email for communications. Of course, the funny thing about email is that I will send one out early on in my shift, and then check my email 8 hrs later and there's no response. Why? Oh, because most people aren't checking their email at 4am.
But in the end, we're making it through, and the end of May is in sight. Eric has two more weeks in May and then two in September, and I have four weeks in September, so more than halfway there overall. Hopefully we'll see more of you when we emerge back into the Land of the Living.


Anonymous said...

Ahh, what an enjoyable blog! I can relate on every level(it's 0427 as I write). That is, except for the breakfast all the time. I'd say for me it's more like dinner all the time (save for my yogurt in the morning before bed). I'm praying for you guys. And happy that you at least are doing that together (something I can't say). Love you both, Sami