During residency, there are ebbs and flows to each work week. In a typical 1 in 4 call schedule, you may find yourself working fifty to a hundred hours a week – based on a 8-10 hour workday, and 24-26 hour call shift.
A light week would be doing a call on a Wednesday or Thursday, approximately 50 hours. A moderate week would be doing Tuesday/Saturday call, roughly 75-80 hours. And finally, once a month you’ll do a Monday, Friday, Sunday call, which works out to be a hundred hours.
Similarly, when call schedules are swapped around, you sometimes end up working two weekends in a row. This translates to physically being at the hospital for 19 days straight.
Regardless to say, my second year has been filled with lots of time in the hospital. Today, I just finished a stretch of 19 days with my last week being a hundred hour work week. The scariest part about this is I’m not even the hardest working resident. Most surgical residents I know work 100+ hours/ every week consistently.
I remember in undergrad, when I first learned of resident work hours, I thought working 80+ hours every week was very doable. I was already spending roughly the same number of hours with my classes and studying, how hard could working 80+ hours be? Now, having done this for a few years, I realize that working 80+ hours isn’t the hard part. It is certainly doable. You get used to pulling all-nighters in the emergency room. You get good at looking after patients and getting stuff done in the hospital.
But what becomes incredibly hard is balancing your life outside of work.
The amount of sleep and the quality get degenerates. You will be pressed for time to buy groceries, cook food and clean up after yourself. Your laundry piles up, emails go unanswered, parties are missed. Blog post? I’d rather sleep. You find yourself detached from the lives of the people around you, as you become more involved with your patient’s lives in the hospital.
If I could talk to my younger-self, I would tell him that residency workload is doable but be prepared and aware of the sacrifices you will make. I would tell him to treasure his time outside of his career, and to nurture healthy relationships that will last. I don’t regret going into medicine. I just wish I had more time for my life outside of medicine right now.
(Photo credit: Stevedunleavy)