I left the hospital this morning at around 5 o’clock, making it two 9-5s in one 24 hour period- not a bad badge of pride. My aim was to completely crash and catch up on the lack of sleep that I’ve been working on since Friday. That didn’t exactly work out, what with a window cleaner banging around outside my room and then a fire alarm. Awesome. So I’ve been running on enthusiasm rather than consciousness today. More on that later.
I did however find last night incredibly useful, learning a few tips, getting involved and seeing interesting cases, increasing my general exposure to the workings of the hospital and what I’ll be expected to do as a doctor. I obviously can’t put any details of what happened on the internet without feeling a bit on-edge about confidentiality, but I’m very glad I did it. Contrary to the cynics a year ahead of me, it demonstrated that my job isn’t just being a secretary for the other members of your team, that you do get to put on your doctor hat and fix sick people from early on in your career. Which is good!
One thing that really struck home to me though was the effect of being tired on performance. Subjectively, I wouldn’t have said I was that tired: I’m generally one to just man up and get on with things and so just switch my brain on a bit more if I think I’m not paying much attention. But having been awake and in the hospital for so long, I could see the fatigue really taking its toll. I’d be discussing things with my SHO, and find myself just not quite following her, or failing to make the connections that I should be.
Worryingly, I could also tell how difficult it was to assess just how poorly you were functioning. I tried testing myself a few times by trying to think of answers to questions, and obviously I was able to recall some. But what you don’t know is if you’re forgetting the Big Important One, or whether you should really be able to remember seven answers instead of four. The whole thing made me aware of the danger of the really long shifts that the UK used to have in the pasts, and that other countries still consider the norm. I remember seeing an old study on this, and it’s not difficult to see how that could so easily lead to poor patient care.
So next time any of you ask me to do anything fun and I say no because I’m going to bed: I’m not actually being lazy, I’m in fact doing it for the patients. What can I say, I’m just a very noble person.