(I know I've posted a similar whine in the past, but humor me, this is on my mind.) Yes, it is just as it sounds, I have been on call, 24/7, for the last 19 days. Granted, I haven't been in the hospital/office the whole time, but it takes such a mental toll! Call as a private practice doc isn't anything like call when I was a resident. In residency, being "on call" means being in the hospital for 24 hours (and, prior to the 80 hour restrictions, up to 36 hours) at a time, working with a team of other residents/attendings, and caring for multiple patients, including surgical, laboring, antepartum, and post-partum. It was grueling, but the time was finite. Even on the worst of days, there was a definite time when I could turn the pager off, and take time only for myself. On days that I was not on call, I was generally out of the hospital around 5-6 pm, with no fear of having to return to the hospital until the following morning, as another resident team was shouldering the workload.
Now when I am on call, it is all me, and only me, on call for all of the patients that I have ever seen, and, over the weekends, on call for all of OtherDoc's patients, as well. Most of the time the calls I get can be handled from home with a phone call, and I can go about the rest of my day. Of course for deliveries and surgical emergencies, I need to be in the hospital ASAP. The hardest thing for me is that I can never quite mentally disengage, as at any time, I have to be ready to race to the hospital. I can't ever go further away than 30 minutes from the hospital, and if I am doing something with my family, we often take separate cars, "just in case" I get called. The pager can go off at any time, and you just never know what is going to be on the other end of the line.
When I was looking for positions post-residency, this was not what I had in mind. I was somewhat mislead into believing that call was split Q 3, and weekend call was to be every third weekend. What actually happened was that I was on solo call for a whole year until I could beg, cajole, and finally convince OtherDoc to at least split weekend calls. The other hospital OB has no interest in sharing call whatsoever, and only wants call coverage for vacations. Now there are some perks for being on call so frequently. I do get to deliver most of my own patients, and when I get calls for problems, I know my patients' histories and personalities fairly well, and can advise them accordingly. I also have fewer patients to cover than a group OB would, so that means less trips to the hospital/phone calls/ etc. while on call. I think that in the next 2-3 years the hospital is looking to hire another OB/GYN, and I am desperately hoping that this person wants more of a life and will go for sharing weekend call, and possibly sharing weekday call, as well. As CindyLou and the Bean grow up, I want to be available for sport games, recitals, and school activities without fear of having to leave to the hospital. I knew what I was getting into as an OB/GYN, and honestly, I don't mind being on call for my patients, because I know that they need me and trust me. I just need to strike a better balance of being available, mentally and physically, to my family and friends as much as I am for my patients.
I am now 27 and 2/7 weeks pregnant, and I am starting to physically slow down. Some days I feel just like a little old lady, whining about my "sciatica." Ha! I am rather short in stature, so the belly is quite "out there" and it is already inviting "due any day now" comments, which is maddening. My office has actually started to pare my schedule, and now, instead of 40-50 patients on my full days, I am averaging closer to 30-35 patients on a full day. This is infinitely more manageable, especially when it comes to charting, but now that I am moving slower and a little more tired it still takes all I have to get through those full days in clinic. My "half-days" are still averaging upwards of 20-28 patients, which is also difficult, but so far I am making it work.
It's funny (read kinda sad), because my patients are always commenting that it must be "so much easier" for me to be empathetic to my pregnant patients, as I am pregnant, myself. I am finding the exact opposite. It is hard for me to commiserate with the patients angling for time off work, complaining about common discomforts, and lounging about muttering about how *tired* they feel. Some days it takes all that I have not to tell them to "suck it up and deal!" It isn't a fair attitude to have, because I *do* know how miserable pregnancy can be, and misery is relative. Just because I feel like I am *more* miserable than they, doesn't mean that my patient isn't experiencing more misery than she ever has before. I do find it interesting that the majority of my patients that are having an "easy" pregnancy do not work, and those that are having the most complications are the working mothers.
For now I am going to close this post, because the whining is starting to annoy *me* so I know it must be most unpleasant for all 6 of *you* still checking back to see if I am still alive. I have some really good cases to discuss as soon as appropriate time has lapsed, so I will try to get around to updating in less than 2 weeks time. Happy weekend to all!