Night Float

I’m officially a week into internship, and my first rotation just happens to be Night Float. For the uninitiated, this means that for my first month, I work from 6pm to 6am, in which I carry the pagers for about half a dozen hospital services and run around with like a chicken with my head cut off every night in order to try to keep all the patients alive until the day teams come back in the morning. During orientation, most of the upper level residents expressed their condolences when I told them that I would be starting on Nights, which did nothing to help with the anxiety of being a “doctor” for the first time.

I somehow made it through medical school without ever having to work nights (except, of course, for 24-hour call, which is of course a very different beast), so the transition has been an interesting one. I’ve gotten myself on a schedule where I go to sleep at around 7-8am, take up around 3-4pm, eat dinner, and then go to work all night. My bedroom now has tin foil all taped all over the windows so that I can sleep in the dark during the day.

As for the work itself… I have to say that I feel like I don’t know anything– simple things that I should know but somehow can’t remember when I suddenly have to apply it. I’m relying on my seniors to answer the simplest questions for me, but sometimes I feel like I haven’t learned anything. Carrying 6 pagers (each service has its own team pager) presents its own interesting challenge of trying to figure out which one went off every time I get a page. I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water, but at least I haven’t killed anyone yet, as far as I know.



I already wrote a little about overnight call before, and even mentioned the slumber party comparison at the time. I thought it would make for a cute comic, though, so here it is. When I was little, my sleepovers consisted mostly of late-night chick flicks, too much junk food, and a healthy dose of gossip. Pillow fights were a rare occurrance.

Call nights

Overnight call survival kit

Remember when you were a kid and a bunch of you would get together at a friend’s house for a slumber party? Going on overnight call is kind of like going to a slumber party… except that you don’t get much sleep, your “friends” consist mostly of drunk and belligerent ER patients, and pillow fights are replaced by midnight pages. But other than that… you pack a bag full of soda, junk food, and miscellaneous toiletries, lay sleeping claims to some piece of furniture that may or may not actually resemble a bed, and wear pajamas (scrubs… close enough) the entire time. Admittedly, I haven’t been on call since several months ago, back before I developed my now-crippling case of senioritis. This comic is just something that I’ve been wanting to draw and never found the time until now. But I remember the experience well enough.

A few stray observations:

  • The night before is actually the worst. That’s when I always found myself tossing and turning in bed, stressing about how I needed to get a good night’s sleep because it was the last sleep I would get for more than 24 hours. (Even though interns are no longer allowed to work for more than 16 hours at a time, medical students aren’t actually responsible for any real patient care and are thus exempt for this rule.) As a result, I would invariably wake up feeling like I didn’t get enough sleep.
  • Sleeping 1-2 hours is usually much, much worse than not sleeping at all… more specifically, being woken up after sleeping for those 1-2 hours.
  • I’ve never been a big coffee drinker, but I’ve found Mountain Dew to be the perfect mix of caffeine and sugar to keep me awake when my body would otherwise prefer not to be. I also usually dislike carbonation, but it’s nice in the middle of the night for some reason.
  • Apprently if I don’t manage to eat dinner by about 1:00am, none of the cafeterias will open again until about 6:00am. This has proved problematic on more than one occasion.
  • Being on call with a good resident makes all the difference in the world.
  • My bed at home is AWESOME.