Monday, July 21, 2008

The Switch

The emergency room is open for 24 hours. And the bigger ones are busy the whole time. A career in emergency medicine requires the ability to work at odd hours. Not long hours - 'full time' in many big ERs could be ten 8-12 hour shifts a month - but odd ones. Who wants to work the 10P to 6A shift every time? As such, ER docs must learn to sleep at any hour and work at any hour. The same applies to medical students. My emergency medicine rotation is 4 weeks long. Students spend two weeks on a day shift and then two weeks on nights. In 90 minutes I start my first night shift.

"The switch" as some call it is tough; there's probably a reason humans evolved with circadian rhythms. (I wonder what's been done in the evolution and development field on that!) I tried a couple of adaptation techniques. Who knows if they will help me to be alert tonight. So far, I:
  • Worked an extra shift (Saturday night after a day shift, for a total of about 22 hours) I figured this would make me tired enough to sleep through the days. But then I didn't work Sunday night... And it was impossible to stay awake at home.
  • Slept whenever I felt like it... naps here and there - atleast 90 mins to increase the likelyhood of getting a full sleep cycle in.
  • Rested when I was awake: reading, writing, watching a movie. Nothing that would make my body tired.
  • Took some benedryl around noon. I wasn't sure I would get any napping in, so wanted to seal the deal. It's a pretty good sleep aid for me.
  • Abstained from caffeine. I think it works well for me in regular intervals, and maybe if I have a can of DMD on my way in tonight, that will help me get back on track.
I think I'mm rested enough to make it through tonight's shift and tomorrow morning's 8AM class. But I've got to get a little more regular if I'm going to last for 2 weeks!

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