Wednesday, May 26, 2004

up all night

There's always a point in the night on call, no matter how tired you are, that you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Usually it hits you around 2 or 3am. The rest of the team will be back in the morning, and the morning is only a few hours away! The reinforcements will arrive, and carry away all their trouble-making patients with them! I relish that moment that the first resident walks into work that morning that I'm post-call. There's that feeling that finally, there's someone else here to take some responsibility.

It's not even midnight. Morning is a long ways off.

I never know what to do when I'm covering other people's patients--patients on other teams entirely, that I've never before in my life laid eyes on--and I get a call from the nurse that the parents want to speak with "the doctor" to get an update on the kid's condition. Am I "the doctor?" Well...technically...yes. Do I know doodly-squat about their kid? Uh, sorry, which one of the identical incubator chicks is yours again?

Most people cop to the totally reasonable, "I'm only covering for the night, wait until morning and ask the kid's real doctor" response. But I know that a lot of parents work during the day, and can only make it here at night, after all of the day teams have gone home. I feel bad not giving them any information, so I try to scour the chart (memo to attendings: it would be nice to write progress notes on your patients once in a while for that purpose) and scrounge up whatever kind of an update I can manage from the computer orders, the medication list, the nursing notes. But it gets hairy when the parents start to ask you about which specific heart lesion their kid has and their long-term prognosis. Then I do have to cop to the "covering for the night" excuse and smile, backing away from the isolette and feeling for the doorknob.

Oh, one more thing. No matter how tasty, do not each a hummus sandwich for dinner when you're on call. You will stink like garlic for the rest of the night.

Currently reading: About radiologic findings for NEC

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