Monday, July 18, 2011 | Categories: Dr. Brian's Blog
On White Coat, Black Art, I pull back the curtain to reveal a side of medicine in general. What I seldom do is let you take a peek at me in particular. I thought I'd indulge myself for a change. Last week, I worked pretty much full time at CBC preparing for a new season of shows starting this Fall. On Wednesday, I traveled out of town to do three interviews for a story we're working on. Thursday and Friday, I was back at my desk at CBC doing telephone interviews for a show I'll be recording next month in British Columbia. On Friday at around 5 pm, I bade my two producers Jean Kim and Kent Hoffman goodbye for the weekend. And then, I went to my other job.
I'm an ER physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. During the production season at WCBA, I work fewer shifts at the hospital than I do when the show is on hiatus. Still, I seldom work fewer than five or six shifts a month. It was my turn to work midnight shifts this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
Following my day at CBC on Friday, I went home and grabbed an hour of sleep. Then, I ate a light dinner with my wife and kids before heading back downtown to the hospital. On my way down, I picked up a Tall, Bold, Red Eye at Starbucks. Following a nap, I usually like a good jolt of caffeine to wake me up. On my way in, I bought a bag of potato chips and a package of chocolate cookies for the nurses. Call it a bribe or a feeble attempt to share some good cheer, but I don't like coming to work empty-handed.
The ER was incredibly busy. There were lots of patients to see on stretchers and even more waiting to be brought in from the waiting room. All night, patients came in waves of four or five. I would clean out the ambulatory care room, only to have it fill up again with new patients almost immediately. When I handed over to my colleague at 7 am, there were still nine patients waiting that I had failed to see for lack of time.
Following my shift, I drove home and went straight to bed, stopping briefly to greet my wife Tamara and my kids Kaille and Sasha. I slept almost nine hours, waking up at 7:45 that evening. I ate breakfast and headed back to the hospital for the Saturday night shift. Fortunately, things were much quieter that night. I managed to keep up with the flow. When my colleague arrived for the day shift on Sunday morning, there were just two patients waiting to be seen.
I drove home and saw my family again briefly before heading back to bed. As often happens, I didn't sleep as well between my second and third nights as I did between the first and second nights. I woke up at 3:00 pm, and again at 4:30 pm and 6:15 pm, when I finally decided to get out of bed. My wife ordered pizza which the four of us ate while draped in front of the TV. Following dinner, I returned to the hospital for my third and final night shift. The pace was steady, but still quieter than either of the first two nights.
I had the privilege of working with a first year resident in family medicine. He was an absolute pleasure to work with. I often find that new residents are eager to learn. I was able to teach him about lots of bread and butter ER problems like how to recognize the signs of peritonitis and how to diagnose a fainting spell caused by a heart problem.
When my colleague arrived to take over at 7:00 am this morning, I had managed to see all but one patient who arrived during my shift. While my colleague saw the new arrivals, I finished diagnosing and treating the patients I had seen throughout the night. I handed over the ER at 9:00 am and left.
All told, while my CBC colleagues went home for the weekend, I worked thirty-three hours seeing patients in the ER. Some would call that a full time job. To me, and to many of my doctor colleagues, it's just another week at the office. It would be nice if I could do one job or the other. Here's the thing. I can't host a radio show about the inside world of medicine if I don't have intimate knowlege of that world that I gain by working there. Neither can I work in the ER if I don't keep up my clinical skills.
What I admit freely is that there are days when I'm not sure how well I handle the the juggling act. This is one of those days. Just thought I'd share it with you.