Things the “on-call” doctor loves to hear:
So I haven’t posted something in a while because I’ve been on leave, and therefore lacking the relevant inspiration. But my first day back I was on call (on a Sunday, fantastic!). Thankfully the on-call gods were kind to me and I had a gentle start. I even had some time to think about my next blog post, so here it is!
Being on call is not fun, you’re alone, looking after a full ward, ICU patients, casualty referrals and as if that’s not enough, all outside referrals for an entire district. These are a few phrases you might hear on your shift that can make your life so much easier:
1. Sorry, wrong number
Yes!!! Best phone call ever! Depending on what department you are working in, your phone can ring incessantly. Sometimes to the point that it takes you double the time to finish what you are busy doing. It’s even worse when the department has its own call-phone. This is a phone specially dedicated to that department’s emergencies. So it gets handed over to the person on call for the day each morning. Now you have two constantly ringing phones to deal with! Worse than the actual ringing though, is what you hear on the other side of the line. But when it’s a wrong number, the relief that you aren’t getting yet another patient to manage far outweighs any annoyance you might feel at being bothered by a wrong number phone call.
2. Don’t worry, I’ll put the drip up
The person who invents a child-proof drip that only comes out when you absolutely want it to will be my hero. When you realize that a drip has tissued or a child has decided he no longer wants this bit of plastic in his hand, your heart sinks. Majority of the time putting up a drip is a 2 minute task, but that one time when it’s not will always be at 2am when you have thousands of other things you still have to do. So when you hear a sister say those sweet sweet words: “I’ll put up the drip”, you are forever grateful!
3. There is a 100% chance of rain today
When it’s cold and wet, people decide that their “back pain which is an urgent medical problem” can actually wait until a more convenient time. Or maybe their eczema doesn’t warrant a emergency center visit in the middle of the night. And people drink at home and pass out on their kitchen floors rather than getting into fights and passing out on street corners. Of course, bad weather might bring in an occasional accident but ‘drunk and disorderly’ are a definite on a dry Friday night in summer.
4. You should go home now
Well, if you insist! Obviously this doesn’t happen in the middle of your call (I wish), but hearing those words the morning after your night shift is heavenly. And when you hear those words earlier than expected it’s even better. These are the mornings that are not to be taken for granted! And your extra hour of post call freedom must be used wisely… Read: “an extra episode of your series of choice”
5. There’s nobody in ICU
This is really a game changer! The ICU patients, especially in paediatrics, are the ones that can turn a quiet night into a “I had to do a million blood gases and phone my consultant 62 times” kind of night. Not ideal, so when ICU is void of any patients belonging to you then life is great.
6. I brought you a treat
My favourite one! Calories don’t count on call. So bring me all the treats! No really, some of my happiest times on call have been when a colleague walked in with a Mc Flurry with my name on it, or the time one of the security guards told me there was a woman knocking on the EC ambulance entrance door looking for me. My immediate thought was “not another psych patient”. Turns out it was my mom (close, but not quite. Just kidding, Mom!) with a bag of speckled eggs and chocolate muffins. “I thought you could do with some treats.” Music to me ears.
I’m sure my fellow doctor friends can think of a few more… feel free to add the list in the comments.