The Schedule of an ER Doc

I’ve been a bit quieter for the past few days, both here and on Twitter. That’s because I just started a run of 5 ER shifts in a row as of today. To make this feasible, I had to make sure I had the rest of my domestic life in order before jumping in for a marathon at work. This takes some physical and mental preparation.

First I have to plan meals, go food shopping, meal prep to at least some extent, make sure my scrubs are all clean, and get the house clean enough that it can survive my inattention for a few days. Then I have to slog through more medical records to keep myself from falling even further behind before I create more work for myself. Somewhere in there, I have to fit in some relaxation and exercise while I can because after some long shifts, I won’t have the energy for much of anything but sleeping, showering, eating, and returning for my next shift.

Why do 5 days in a row of work impact ER doctors like this when the great majority of the working world has a 5-day work week? Well in ER, our shifts aren’t ever 8-hour days. I’ve truly never heard of ER docs that have that schedule. I’m currently working 10-hour days, but most places have a rotating schedule of 12-hour days.

However, by working 10-hour days, I’m only working 4 days a week for my normal schedule. And if I went back to 12 or 13-hour days, I’d only work 3 days a week. So while these long shifts can be very hard, they also have the advantage of long stretches of time off. It’s hard on family life for some people as well.

But for now, I’m just going to hunker down, write some more medical records, and try to get some sleep before I do it again for four more days. What is my trade-off this time? I don’t have to work Memorial Day, so I get a four day weekend!


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