The Hundred Hour Week

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)

5 Responses to The Hundred Hour Week

  1. Gunner Kid says:

    I was in high school when I first starting reading your blog. Now I am in medical school. It’s only first year and I am already stressed and exhausted from studying and have started questioning why I chose this path. I understand how you feel; I want a life outside of medicine as well.

    • medaholic says:

      You’ll stress about different things for each stage. I think the stress from first year is from feeling overwhelmed, that there is too much to learn and not enough time to master it. That hopefully gets better. Clerkship and beyond is quite different, as you no longer have any control over your schedule, especially in residency if you have a lot of call to do.

  2. Anon says:

    Wow, you studied/went to classes for 80 hours a week? That’s about 11 hours a day! How did you balance academics and non-academics in undergrad??

    • medaholic says:

      I found undergrad life more balanced. 11 hours a day seems like a lot, but I had classes from 8:00-12:00 for classes. And then usually split up the remaining time to an afternoon study session of 2-3 hours and again in the evening. The time was also more flexible, which made scheduling easier.

  3. Blue says:

    Great article! I had one question about call shifts in relation to students with disabilities. I will be attending med school shortly, and one of the things I am worried about is the 24-26 hour call shifts during residency. Although a lack of sleep is hard on the majority of people, pulling all nighters is virtually impossible in my case. Do you know if people with disabilities are granted certain accommodations in matters such as this? Thank you!

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