The Night Shift Diaries: Behind the scenes with a doctor

The Night Shift Diaries: Behind the scenes with a doctor

Ever wondered what a doctor's night shift really entails? Allow me to pull back the curtain on the nocturnal world of medicine.

Over the last six years, I've danced with the night - whether in a bustling hospital, a silent night clinic, or the unpredictable realm of ambulance services. Despite the varied settings, the essence remains consistent. I've long wanted to shed light on how these extended and often erratic hours weigh on a doctor's well-being.

Picture this: After a day filled with surgeries, patient check-ins, consultations, and endless paperwork, you'd think it's time to rest. But in the on-call room, luxury is a rare find. Sometimes you're treated to basic bedding; other times, it's just you and your trusty sleeping bag. You collapse, silently pleading for sleep, but rest is elusive.
"Sleep, sleep, sleep, please come..."- You wish falling asleep would be as easy as that. The weight of your responsibilities keeps your mind churning.
The night is punctuated with calls - emergencies, deteriorating patients, or consultations. Each summons finds you rising, tending, and hoping the next call is hours away. Sometimes, the operating theatre beckons, and you're acutely aware that the stakes are life-altering.

Dawn might be breaking outside, but your shift isn't over. There are patients to check on, reports to finalize, and while morning's adrenaline keeps you going, the fatigue eventually seeps in, often hitting hardest on the journey home.

Yet, not all nights are grueling. Some shifts end with the gratification of a life saved or a medical mystery unraveled. These moments fuel your spirit, reminding you why you chose this path.

The unpredictability of a 24-hour shift is its hallmark. Will it be calm or chaotic? Will sleep be a fleeting moment or a luxury? Or will there be that one case that lingers, questioning your every decision?

While night shifts are an inextricable part of healthcare, research underscores their health implications. From immediate cognitive challenges to long-term risks like depression, diabetes, and even certain cancers, the toll is undeniable. Poor post-shift habits can exacerbate these effects.

For years, I'd return home post-shift, aimlessly wandering my apartment, a shadow of my usual self. It took time to craft a restorative post-shift routine: a hearty breakfast, an uplifting show, meditation, and most importantly, undisturbed sleep. I've also found solace in the unwavering companionship of pets, echoing sentiments of a pediatric surgery professor who once shared the therapeutic presence of a furry confidant.

No magic formula exists. Some cases will always challenge our decisions, making us second-guess. But in those moments, we must remember: we gave our best in that moment. Our mission? To continually learn, evolve, and always strive for excellence.