It isn’t easy to reverse your sleep cycle, and all those people who work on night shifts including watchman, nurses, technologist, police patrol and of course doctors do hold special respect in my heart. The doctors and nurses, I am especially in awe of because they are at those odd hours dealing with critically ill, accident or trauma cases, those which require special attention that’s why they are there. One lapse of judgement due to their own sleepiness can cause grave errors. Yet, the adrenaline pumped due to the seriousness of the situation keeps them going.
The first time I was posted for full night duty was during my Internship. I remember it oddly as being residents on strike due to low wages or maybe some violent incident. We, the interns were posted in the labour room. Labour rooms you all know are most active at nights. There was a constant rush of patients being brought for labour and they required constant monitoring. One or two patients had to be taken for the emergency caesarian section. I oddly remember one patient had convulsions ( severe eclampsia) and one of us had to be on the watch the entire night. We were just three of us and the 2 to 3 days which the strike had lasted had given us a glimpse of heavy obstetrics rotation. I was sleepless even after my shifts and had to resort to sleeping pills for a day or so after the strike was over.
Later, however, during residency, I got used to doing the night shifts and could automatically switch my sleep cycle. My husband who is an intensivist can easily make that switch from awake to sleep. Even to this day whenever he gets a call, he being a sound sleeper will not hear the ringing bell and I have to wake him and tell him to attend the phone. Once awake, it’s usual business. He will go and attend the call and come back and sleep.
There have been at times media uproar about doctors sleeping on shifts. Let me make this clear, our bodies are tuned to the circadian rhythm. Getting sleep once tired is natural. Yet, a sincere doctor would never go to sleep when a patient needs him. I sometimes find it too annoying when patients relatives complain about trivial issues. A few months back I remember a critical elderly patient in my husband’s ICU. The elderly man was on a visit visa and probably his medication had finished off a week early. The medicine was not available without a prescription here and so the old man was brought to the emergency and later shifted to ICU. His condition worsened after admission during the night. The duty doctor informed my husband who immediately left his sleep to be in the ICU. The entire team worked for the next 4-5 hrs to stabilise him. The next morning, when his son who had been asleep in his comfortable bed all this time was informed about the patient’s condition and that now he was stable, instead of being thankful pounced on the staff as if his being sick was due to being in hospital and not due to missing 1 week of his chronic medication.
The night shifts in trauma centres, emergency units, ICU, obstetrics, neonatal units, anaesthetists etc are usually heavy. Ask a mother of a neonate, how difficult it is to stay awake. And then just for once, think about all those who stay awake so that your loved ones are taken care of even at that time.
I am participating in #A2Z2021 hosted by Blogchatter. Blogchatter community binds all the Indian bloggers and has put blogging at a forefront. You can visit them at https://theblogchatter.com