Tips to Surviving a Long Shift
By Danny Goldin
While there are a seemingly limitless number of jobs in the United States with just as many different responsibilities, there is still a "standard" schedule that is thought of by most to be the 9-to-5, 40-hour work week. Still, it is not uncommon for workers to log 50- or 60-hour weeks, and some workers with extra busy schedules even peak at 80.
For those in the health care industry, however, 80-hour work weeks are routine. Schedules used to exceed even that and extend far past 100 hours, though in 2002, the 80-hour work limit went into effect for residencies. Even with that rule in implementation, shifts can at times seem to never end.
In case you have a long shift coming up, or plan to one day work in the health care industry and are wondering how you will get through the busy weeks, here are three tips to surviving a long shift:
1) Know that you are needed to help others. "I trained before the 80-hour work week [limit] for residents, so some weeks I was on call every other night, and other weeks I worked 132 hours," said Diane Radford, a surgical oncologist practicing in St. Louis with the St. Louis Cancer and Breast Institute. "What kept me going was the desire to do my best every day, the knowledge that I was using my talents to help others, and the edict 'primum non nocere,' which means 'above all, do no harm.' As healers, we have to remember that our primary goal is to serve, and to care for the sick. It is not about us; it is about the patients."
2) Implement methods that keep you awake. "I am a family physician who finished residency seven years ago. That was just before the 80-hour work rule went into effect, so I routinely worked 100-plus hours per week," said Deborah Gilboa, a family doctor who practices in Pittsburgh, Penn., at the Squirrel Hill Health Center. "I have a few tips to ensure that you never fall asleep. One, sleep with your pager in your hand. Two, if you are really not going to be able to sleep, eat. It tricks your body slightly into thinking it is day time, and will give you a cortisol burst. Three, if you are doing something mind-numbing -- like checking labs -- and are afraid you will fall asleep when you don't have time, set your phone alarm to go off every so often on a recurring basis."
3) Stock up on protein and carbohydrates. "When I have to do very long cardiac procedures, anything that produces a consistently high adrenaline level can cause your judgment to suffer, and this is a risk that must be avoided," said J. Deane Waldman, a professor of pediatrics and pathology at the University of New Mexico. "In order to stop this from occurring, you must withdraw temporarily and eat some healthy food, and get some protein and carbohydrates. This allows your heart rate to slow down and your hormone precursors to restore the protein and carbohydrates. If you don't do this and just 'tough it out,' you are more likely to make either technical or cognitive mistake."
Copyright 2012 MiracleWorkers