Doctors On Call – What Is It Like For A Resident?

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Anyone who is in medical school would have been on call some time or the other. At that point of time, you might not have had too much responsibility yet and there is a possibility that your first taste of the ‘real thing’ would be during your residency year when you start doing rotations. Some of these rotations will prove to be more traumatic for you than others. The daily routine might seem to be thankless at times and being on call can seem like the end of the world.

Students observing surgery at Iringa Regional in Tanzania For a resident, being on call can sometimes mean up to 30 hours of continuous work, unless you are able to catch a quick nap. It is a very normal schedule for a doctor who is in training and especially for one who works in an intensive care unit or a hospital floor.  You will wake up in the wee hours of the morning, go visit all your patients and write all the daily progress notes. After that is done, you will make the morning rounds with the rest of the team, attend a lecture or two and then complete all your patient-care tasks.

Once you are through the afternoon, the rest of the ICU residents will give you all the reports on their respective patients who you will have to care for overnight. That is what being on call is.

You will be asked to go and attend to patients and in some cases there will be more than one that needs urgent attention. Before you treat a particular patient, you will have to look through the reports that the other resident has written and you will have some major decisions to make.

As the evening turns to night, your workload will increase as patients come up from the emergency room and you will have to speak with them and then examine them as well. You will have worked right through the day and you will feel yourself flagging, but there really is no time for respite. You will be working right through the night and making admission notes as well as answering pages and addressing queries from nurses.

You’re not done – There’s still more work to do

While there is a call room where you can lay your weary head when all the work has been taken care of, more often than not the pager will beep as soon as you step into the room and off you go – back on call, saving more lives. You will find though that nurses are considerate and if you are catching a break, they will not call you unless there is a dire need.

You will find yourself all too often working right through to 24 hours and you can’t wait for the next lot of residents to come along and rescue you.

A job well done

You have probably not had more than a half hour of sleep but your work is still not done. You will have to fill the residents on all the nights’ events, do a quick check on your patients and also pen a batch of detailed progress notes. There’s no arguing that being on call can be gruelling. The good news is that all residents before you have been through it and have come out of it stronger and better prepared to face the rigorous schedule of being a doctor. At the end of the day, you know that it is all worth it- after all, it is what you signed up for.

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