One of the key parts of clinical rotations is that you get a good awareness of the different specialties. And since you work directly with the residents, you get a quick snapshot into the different responsibilities of what residency will be like. Here on OB/GYN, residents and attendings have to commit to at least some night shifts (residents at our institution spend 3 months of the year on night call), meaning they work from 5pm-6:30 am during the week. And we as med students spend a week with the night team.
The night shift is very unpredictable. Dartmouth additionally being a rural yet Level 1 Trauma Center, you never know what you’re going to get. One night, we had no cases–we sat by the monitors and kept our minds busy by studying or practicing our sutures. Other nights, we were never able to sit down, as cases were coming in left and right. One night, we started with a C-section within 5 minutes of walking through the door at 5 pm, and following a few more ED cases and another labor, I finally got to sit down around 5:15 am. It was intense.
The first night transitioning to a night service really affected my sleep schedule. Even with no sleep the first day, it was still challenging to try to sleep during the day when the sun was out. But by mid-week, I became accustomed to the routine, and now I imagine it will be challenging to return to a day shift schedule.
UCLA put out a website for anyone who works the night shift and identifies strategies. Some of it seems commonsense–like nap before your shift, eat well, and perform proper sleep hygiene. Easier said than done, however.
They say that nothing good happens after midnight, but I’d have to disagree. Some of my favorite interactions with patients–whether it’s a new delivery, a 3:30 am surgery or a patient rushing into the hospital because she’s having shortened contractions–have been during the night shift. It seems like there are more opportunities to focus strictly on the medicine of healthcare, which has been refreshing.
Any other students or professionals have experiences working the night shift? Perhaps in more urban areas?