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Tales From the Call Room – The Pager

On those rare call nights when things are quiet on the wards, I often find it hard to sleep soundly. The reason is because there is a big elephant in the room – the pager.

The pager is your electronic leash. You learn to hate the pager and you learn to rely on it. Every time it rings I feel the urge to throw it out the window and smash it into a million pieces. Yet at the same time, I’m deathly terrified of missing an important page. If a patient becomes sick or there’s a consult that needs to be seen in the emergency room, the pager – and now more often your smartphone – is often the only way people can reach you.

Even though I’m not a deep sleeper, I still worry that I’ll miss an important page. As a result, I sleep with the pager beside my pillow. My cellphone is also tucked underneath my pillow. It’s very unsettling. It’s the equivalent of sleeping with a time-bomb that can and will go off at any moment. I also sleep with the light on so I don’t fumble around in the dark when the darned thing does go off. In general, I don’t sleep too well in the call room.

I know I’m not the only one that feels this way. One co-resident is such a deep sleeper, she has resorted to using a headband to strap the pager to her forehead so she won’t her pages. I’ve shared similar stories with other residents that when their pager hasn’t beeped in hours, they might send themselves a test page to make sure the thing isn’t broken.

Surely pager paranoia should be be in the DSM-V. It would be a mix of Post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety and depression. Am I the only paranoid one here? Or does anyone feel the same way about their stupid pager?

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  1. Julia
    Julia October 14, 2012

    Fun, short post – made me laugh. Also – kind of a random question but where exactly do you residents/clerks sleep while on call? I take it from your post you guys have a “call room” that you sleep in?

    • medaholic
      medaholic October 16, 2012

      There are call rooms with beds… If only we saw them more often

  2. Idiopathic
    Idiopathic November 4, 2012

    Fun post there – 100% agree. On one of my recent call shifts, after awaking from a full 6 hours’ sleep, I did not relish in the rest, but rather, panic with fear that I did not hear my pager! So I then scrambled all over the call room looking for my pager in the dark, only to find that I indeed did not get paged. It’s awful that we can’t even enjoy the fact that we got a decent amount of sleep.

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