Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Stress of a Doctor on Call

Nobody can understand the stress of a doctor on call, except another doctor on call. In private practice, the doctor on call is the front-line for all the problems and emergencies that occurs in the wards, and that which comes in through the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department.

The doctor lives in a state of apprehension from the time his or her call starts which is usually at 8am in the morning until 8am the next day. This means that anytime he or she will have to be ready to face anything that happens during the day. Such doctors live in fear of the ringing of the phones (used to be pagers). Many doctors have phone-phobia. A phone call may mean a minor consult about what medication a patient is to be given or that someone is dying in the A&E. In that case, the doctor has to ruch to the A&E as soon as possible to resuscitate the patient. Woe is the doctor if he or she is at home. It is then a mad dash to the hospital. Relatives and spouses expect doctors to perform miracles, even to bring back the dead.

There is no peace even when the doctor lays his or her head down to sleep. The mobile or phone lies next to the doctor. Expect a call from the A&E at 11.45pm because for some reasons, patients who are ill like to come to hospital at that hour. Sleep when it comes is restless. The worst calls are those in the early hours of the morning when one is roused from a deep sleep and have to rush to hospital to attend to a sick patient, and are expected to perform at one's best. The stress level only decrease in the early morning when the stress and call is passed onto the next doctor.

What, I am not on call today? Shucks, I thought I was. What a waste of a great stress.


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Blogger doc said...

story of my life, Alex.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

ah, you must the other doctor on call

12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any advice for the Doc on how to not be so stressed out, or for the concerned spouse (me) who has to go through it with her every 6 days?

3:57 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi Anonymous,

I wish I have some magic formula for stressed out doctors but unfortunately I do not. Being on call is a stressful time. Doing our job (doctoring) well is also stressful. And I know it is equally stressful on the spouses and children.

Different doctors deal with their stress differently. Some exercise,others watch television, or eat a lot of comfort food. I de-stress by watching movies, reading and praying.

One thing to watch out for is to avoid using alcohol or anti-anxiety drugs to de-stress. These are addictive and lead to more harm than good.

10:03 AM  

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