Working the 4-day holiday weekend

The continuous days I worked: 4

And had I wanted I could have had  more

With a wink and a scoff

I took the day off.

Cause it was offered.  Oh, what a score!


Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, traveled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I went back to adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system I can get along with. Assignments in Nome, Alaska, rural Iowa, and suburban Pennsylvania stretched into fall 2015. Since last winter I’ve worked in Alaska and western Nebraska, and taken time to deal with my wife’s (benign) brain tumor. After a moose hunt in Canada, and a couple of assignments in western Iowa, I’m back in Alaska. Any identifiable patient information has been included with permission.

I had call for the 4-day holiday weekend.  It went well, as such things go.  Always alert to the chance of call back, I napped wholeheartedly at every opportunity but slept fitfully during the night. I didn’t set an alarm, but lived with the fear that the hospital-issued phone would run out of charge or otherwise fail.

Patients came in a reasonable flow.  Late morning and midafternoon brought one or two people to our ER.  In a town such as this, where everyone lives walking distance from the clinic, our nurses can make house calls.  They draw blood, and can run a few tests on the weekends.

Our clinic boasts very high quality ER nurses, tough and experienced.  They’re not afraid to make a decision about what can wait till tomorrow and what can’t.  They have good clinical judgment, and I can trust them.

I didn’t have to call staffers for lab or x-ray, but when a patient’s illness exceeded our resources, I had to call the transport team.  Interestingly, the patient’s illness exceeded the resources in Ketchikan as well.

I didn’t see more than 5 patients a day.  On two of the call days I had work between 11PM and 8AM.  Every patient, if not downright polite and respectful, was doing the best with what they had.  They mostly suffered respiratory issues.  Two had run into  trauma, there was no interpersonal violence.  Everybody came in sober.

On Tuesday morning I trudged through the rain to the clinic for Morning Report.  I discussed the patients I’d seen.  I got a lot of sympathy for taking 4 continuous days of call, and made haste to say that it really hadn’t been at all bad.

Then I got an unexpected day off.  The weather didn’t get any better, under leaden skies the rain either spit or poured, driven by winds remarkable for inconsistency.  Still, Bethany and I went walking around town, to the grocery store and the Post Office.  I marveled at foot traffic and the scenic beauty, things I’m not used to seeing because I spend the day inside.

If you can’t have a good time in bad weather, you need more practice.







2 Responses to “Working the 4-day holiday weekend”

  1. Dr John Redwine Says:

    Good post, but I don’t think that your 4-day weekends compete with what you and I did for Thanksgiving call; on at 5:00 PM Wednesday and off at 7:00 AM Monday, unless the weather or illness prevented your replacement from taking over, which happened to me twice. Look me up when you get back to the lower 48. Happy Chanukah!

  2. walkaboutdoc Says:

    Nor did the 4-day weekend compete with the 5-day horror when I worked for Community Health. The census never went under 32, and I believe it peaked at 45. In the 120 hours I got a total of 20 hrs of poor quality, fragmented sleep. My life’s best work was not in the last 12 hours.

    I don’t work there any more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: