Working overnight shifts are tough as hell man. I really don’t know how my mom did it all those years as a night-shift trauma RN. Thing is, it’s not even the actual shift that makes it hard. Once you’re working, it feels like any other shift that you would usually work. It’s the preparation and recovery from the shift that makes it challenging…I just woke up from a 5-hour recovery nap from my 11 PM – 7 AM shift last night/this morning and I’m still here sipping on some coffee to make sure I make it through the rest of my day. I also took a 4-hour nap before my shift which helped a ton, especially since I had spent half of my day yesterday helping mold the minds of young high school students. More on that later. Because of this shift, my weekend has been flipped upside-down, and my nap this morning could potentially affect my sleep tonight as well. It’s wild how much of an impact the timing of a shift can have on the days surrounding it. It reminds me of my overnight shifts during Ob/Gyn, where I had a four-day stretch of night shifts. Now THAT was hard. At least with this rotation I only have one night shift scheduled.
The night shift actually went by pretty fast though and I’m glad I got the opportunity to do one because I saw some WILD stuff bruh. The moment I arrived, we got hit with a couple of trauma cases and from there we sustained a level of activity in the ED that kept pretty much everyone busy. With the vast majority of the trauma patients we treated being victims of either gun violence or burns, it was hugely important that we treated them in a very efficient and effective manner. With so much movement and activity going on during these cases, I felt like I was in the way of everyone half of the time. But during the other half, I felt like I was peforming meaningful tasks for the patient, which was a great feeling. I almost felt like I was in one of those medical dramas lol. Although we were kept busy most of the night, there were a couple of lulls where the team could catch their breath and do some learning with the attending physician. I also got the opportunity to help repair a laceration right before my shift ended! Although I moved pretty slow, I think that I did a good job stitching up the patient’s wound. There’s always room for improvement though. 😅
The day before my shift, I got the opportunity to participate in a Trauma Simulation Lab at the school with EMS and Nurse volunteers. In this lab, my rotation group was split into two separate groups and we rotated through three different trauma scenarios while switching between the various roles of the trauma team (airway management, secondary survey, recorder, & team leader). The three roles I played were the recorder, the physician who performed the secondary survey of the patient, and the team leader. The team leader was by far the hardest role to play because with the limited knowledge I had about these situations, I was literally calling all of the shots in the scenario. It was pretty uncomfortable to say the least, but I feigned confidence and managed to get everyone through the scenario with some much appreciated help from the EM physician observing us. This simulation lab gave me the knowledge and insight to appreciate what was going on around me in the trauma cases last night. Talk about perfect timing. Instead of viewing everything as chaos, I was able to figure out what everyone’s role on the team was and why they were doing what they were doing. As chaotic as the trauma cases last night seemed, the communication and activity between the healthcare providers were actually very organized once you got down to the core of everything. Being able to dissect the organized chaos around me was pretty neat, to say the least.
With my only other shift this past week being an evening shift in the Pediatric ED, it was a light week in regards to shift work. However, I was kept very busy with lectures, bedside teaching sessions, simulation labs, meetings and studying. The Peds ED was a great learning experience overall, where I played an important part in both assessing the patients after gathering information about them and helping ease the many worries of the parents. In the other simulation lab I participated in earlier in the week, we learned how to perform Advanced Cardiac Life Support by running a code on a dummy patient. I helped perform CPR on the patient, which is EXHAUSTING if you didn’t already know. You gotta really press down hard to effectively pump blood from the heart to the rest of the body. No wonder people’s ribs get shattered during CPR.
I also led one of the codes in this simulation, which was actually more uncomfortable than the simulation I led later in the week. But I figured that I might as well get this experience now, where screwing up would be much more forgiven than in a real-life scenario. I have to give props to the physicians who lead these situations man. Having to manage life-and-death situations on the spot produces such a significant amount of stress, which makes it all the more incredible how well the doctors I’ve seen lead these codes do so. But I was also told that leading these situations are never easy, no matter how experienced you are as a physician. That’s not hard to believe though; it’s literally a matter of life and death.
I mentioned earlier that I spent my Saturday helping mold the minds of young high school students. Now I bet you’re asking how did I go about doing that. Or maybe you’re not. Lol, I don’t really care. These students are a part of Wake Forest’s College LAUNCH program, a year-long program that introduces them to various career options and leadership activities via monthly Saturday summits while expanding their professional networks. The summit I was helping out with was one that introduced them to careers in the STEM field, with my session specifically talking about the roles that physicians play in effective patient care and how we navigate through the healthcare system on behalf of our patients. It was such an awesome experience to be able to meet these young, surprisingly inquisitive minds and to allow them to engage in conversation with the standardized patient and I about real issues that affect patients and their families on an everyday basis. I was also able to sit in on a panel with other healthcare professional students and answer the many questions that the high school students had about college and how we got to where we’re at. I’m honored to have been asked to help out with this initiative! 😁
Now that I’ve typed much more than I had anticipated in this post (as I frequently do smh), allow me to bring this post to a close as I focus on getting my life together before going to FINALLY watch Avengers: The Infinity War!!! I’m so pumped man!! 😄😆🤩
Have a MARVELOUS week!
“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” – Arthur Ashe
– Black Man, M.D.
4 thoughts on “Sifting Through Chaos”
I often find myself in anxious thought about what medical training will be like, the late night shifts, running codes and performing CPR. It gives me paralysis and suffocates my soul to think that I will fail at these tasks that are key in becoming a well trained physician. I am applying to medical school this cycle, and have congestive heart failure myself. What advice can you give someone like me, who is very passionate about helping others as a physician, but may have some difficulties navigating the physically taxing requirements of consecutive late shifts, and long hours?
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Well to start off, I’m about to graduate in less than a year and all of those things make me quite nervous too. That being said, I believe that it’s just best to trust the process and believe that you’ll learn everything that you need to learn to excel once you get to that position. Also, it helps to know that you won’t be alone when it comes time to run codes and perform CPR and whatnot; faculty and staff around you know that you’re in training so they won’t expect you to be perfect. I’ve learned over time that it’s much easier to accept that I’ll mess up than it is to stress myself out trying to be perfect. I’ve decided to use my mistakes as learning opportunities, and that mindset has gotten me this far so it’s working for me lol.
In regards to navigating the physically taxing requirements with a chronic condition, I believe that it’s best to make sure that the faculty know what your limits are and how hard you’re able to work before reaching that limit. Communication is definitely key. If you don’t tell them what’s going on, there is no way for them to know that you’re dealing with a chronic condition. Plus like I said before, you’re almost never alone. You’ll have people on your team who can help you out and as long as you have a great attitude and aren’t unpleasant to work with, they’ll be happy to assist with your duties.
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Thank you so much for sharing and for the great advice. I feel more positive now considering your perspective. I know the experience is going to be amazing and I’m looking forward to growing personally and professionally.
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No problem, I’m happy to have been able to help you out! It sure is an amazing experience unlike any other!
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