Pre-Call

Creative Commons – dskley

You would think being on call for the last two and a half years would make this easier, a little more tolerable. Especially after doing 1 in 4 nights for the last six months, I should be used to it. Yet here I am again, getting this sense of anxiety the night before my call shift. This is my pre-call dread.

This pre-call dread gives me a sense of impending doom, as if my call day will be the worst day of my life. I get worried, I get keyed up, I complain in protest of not wanting to be on call. People often talk about their post-call days and how wonderful they are. Few people talk about pre-call.

I’ve spoken to my colleagues about this phenomenon and they agree it’s a real thing. It manifests itself differently for each person. Some people get fatigued more easily and decide to sleep earlier in preparation for their call day. Others distract themselves by doing something fun like watching a movie or having a nice dinner. For me, I don’t sleep very well when I’m pre-call. Instead, I often get a last minute ambition to tackle the multiple undone items on my to-do-list as a final effort to delay the inevitable.

The silly thing is I don’t even find call that bad. When I’m on call, time goes by quite quickly, I learn a lot and I enjoy the independent decision making. Most nights, I get enough rest so that my post-call days are decently productive. I’ve learned to cope with being on call well so it’s bearable. Pre-call on the other hand, I handle poorly. I feel uneasy. I feel tension.

So here I am again, the night before I’m on call, trying to tidy up all the unfinished tasks from the week. My room’s usually in disarray, my bags are not packed and I don’t want to go to bed. I’m writing a post about this dread. I feel anxious and I’m usually not anxious about anything. Presentations, projects and exams don’t even cause the same sense of distress for me as pre-call.

It’s a strange feeling. I guess people with generalized anxiety must feel this way all the time. I sympathize for them.

But alas, my time’s up. My pre-call day is over! On to the real call and then that blessed post-call day. Such is the life of a resident.

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