I’m on call this weekend. There are 52 weekends in a year (well, actually 52.5 this year + next year! Neither 365 nor 366 are evenly divisible by 7). I am on call for 10 to 11 of them.
Therefore, call is a part of life. Not a huge part, but a sizeable chunk. It’s not disposable or insignificant. And the truth is that it’s not even that stressful when I’m doing it! I’m not stuck in the hospital. I am not (usually) woken up multiple times throughout the night. I do have to round, write notes, see a handful of patients, and answer emergency phone calls. On a more strenuous day, I can still typically finish rounding by early afternoon.
It sounds fairly reasonable, doesn’t it? That’s because IT IS. I know that physicians love to be martyrs. And many of them are working very high volume hours with a huge amount of stress during those hours. Josh, for example, was at the hospital until 3 am last night.
I was on call, but slept peacefully until my alarm woke me up — not a patient (or a kid, for that matter).
I am still a ‘real’ doctor. I care about my patients very much. I try my very best while I am at work. But I do tend to compartmentalize and shut off my ‘work brain’ after 5 pm most days. Truth: I have no desire to work long hours. I chose my specialty and my work situation very deliberately. There is nothing martyr-like about my life. I want to have kid time, family time, me time, workout time. I want to manage our household and be home for dinner with the kids. And I really actually can say that I LOVE my balance* most of the time. Except when on call, when I become stressed out for no real reason at all. I think it’s a control issue — I can’t set the schedule or know when an urgent consult might come in. I tend to get very ornery with Josh, eat total crap (somehow I feel like I’m “allowed” on call — holdover from residency??), and have a strong urge to just scrolllllllllll mindlessly until the time passes. To numb my anxiety and pass the time? I suppose.
But I have GOT to learn to get past this stress. I may very well have hundreds of call weekends ahead of me. This weekend has been a pleasant mix of home+work life thus far, and there is no reason it won’t continue to be. I mapped out a plan for the weekend and so far it is falling into place. I am cozy in my new office, done with patient notes and writing this post. I am about to go home to the kids. Life is good.
Here’s to taking a deep breath every time my phone rings and accepting call as a normal part of life, not one to be hated/endured/gotten through. Someday I believe I will get there!
* Or mix, or mosaic, or matrix, or whatever you want to call it; apparently the word ‘balance’ has fallen out of favor