Sudden Unexpected Call Syndrome

Picture this… it’s 6:42 this morning, my cat is snuggled in my lap, my coffee is delicious, the music is wonderful. And then… I looked at my calendar.

Really? 

I’M ON CALL?

Between call and business travel this is the first weekend in 5 weeks I’ve been home.  I was totally psyched for a weekend off and then…

If you are in medicine, you will immediately recognize that this is an important syndrome which, up to now, has gone unnamed.  If you aren’t in medicine it’s important to know what happens next.  When a physician, nurse or other provider suffers from SUCS, it only takes 10-15 minutes to have the paradigm shift of “Oh, well….. “ and then move on to how you are going to take care of others.  (Trainees – when, not if, this happens to you, the worst thing you can do is turn this into a chronic condition by letting this torture you during your call day.)

I took a deep breath, reorganized my thoughts and my emotions.  I went from my hierarchy of needs for the weekend to the well recognized hierarchy of needs for being on call.

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 Then I texted my fellow.

And she responded….

On to the rest of the day, including my Saturday tradition of going to the farmer’s market!

As I was at the farmer’s market, looking at all the wonderful produce, having breakfast and soaking in the sun, I pondered my rapid recovery from SUCS.

And then I had a thought I will pose to my readers…. what should we call the opposite syndrome?  You know, the one when you get to the hospital and realize you made a mistake and you aren’t on call?

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p.s. It turned out my call yesterday was listed as an “all day” event for two days on Outlook.  Whew!

Last Minute Halloween Costumes

Today’s discussion in the OR lounge was about Halloween costumes …. Great ones we’ve seen in the past and last minute options for procrastinators.  I thought I’d pass on a few ideas!

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 An all white outfit (WBC), an all red outfit (RBC) and  – if there is a small person in your trio – purple for a platelet.

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BDU (camouflage) shirt with black pants = upper GI

Black shirt with BDU pants = lower GI.

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And a few more ….

Go as the game “Operation”

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Create a simple costume to go as an Immuno-goblin

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Staphylococci and Streptococci (best done as a pair!)

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Identity Thief

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Please use the comments to add other great costumes you have seen or worn. Even better, send photos for next year’s update!  HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Top 10 Holiday Gifts for Physicians and Physicians in Training

The holiday season is rapidly approaching.   Here’s my top ten gifts for medical students, residents and physicians…. or any busy friend!

  1. Mark Bittman’s new book How To Cook Everything Fast.

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This is an amazing cookbook and it is perfect for busy people. The recipes are interesting, delicious and healthy. The instructions are easy for a novice without being simplistic and the layout of the book in innovative and makes it really easy to use.

 

  1. An electric pressure cooker.

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Slow cookers are often suggested for medical students and residents but I don’t think they are as good as a pressure cooker.   You have to be there when slow cookers are (slowly) cooking, which is usually your rare day off. Also, it’s hard to cook vegetables in a slow cooker. Pressure cookers on the other hand cook broccoli in 2 minutes (perfectly!).  I’ve been told that the electric pressure cookers take a little longer to come up to pressure, but it seems a small downside for a device that also lets you slow cook, steam, sauté, and cook rice.

 

  1. Coffee or Tea

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There are several options to consider if they are a serious coffee or tea drinker. A Starbucks or Teavana gift card in a cute “medical” coffee mug? A Starbucks Verismo coffee brewer? Nespresso? Keurig?

 

  1. A FitBit

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Anyone in medicine loves gadgets and loves data. The fitbit has become a socially acceptable piece of “jewelry” in the hospital and it unquestionably changes behavior to increase activity. Having washed three of the “clip on” Fitbits with my scrubs, I would recommend one of the wristband Fitbits!

 

  1. A maid or housecleaning service

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Doing housework has to be on everyone’s lowest list of fun things to do on your day off, but it’s especially true for people who are studying extensively or taking call in the hospital. My parents helped finance someone to come occasionally to help clean my apartment when I was an intern. It was without a doubt the best present I’ve ever received.

 

  1. Anything that helps make it easy to get more exercise

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Another great gift is anything that will promote more exercise… a bicycle to commute to school or work? Yoga classes? Spin classes? A gift certificate for new running shoes? Resistance bands for the call room? A membership to a YMCA or a gym close to where they live? Certificates for post workout massages?

 

  1. “Date night” packages

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Whether they are single or have a significant other, being able to socialize is an important part of stress reduction for busy people.   Create combinations of gift cards to movie theaters and restaurants to support “date nights”. If they love art, music, or sports think of season tickets (or ticket packages) to museums, music venues or professional sport teams.

 

  1. An “over the top” alarm clock

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It’s not easy getting up at “dark thirty” to make it to rounds, but being on time is important.   The snooze button is not a good idea… but it’s so easy to hit. This alarm clock is my personal favorite to make sure you get out of bed. After a few hits of the snooze button, it rolls off the table and around the room until you turn it off!

 

  1. Great books by, for and about doctors.  

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If they are a serious reader, think about a Kindle (or other eReader). The Kindle paperwhite is small, lightweight, back lit and has a great battery life – which makes it great for the occasional times on call that you can find 30 minutes to escape into a good book. You can also read it outside in bright sunlight (unlike tablets like the iPad) On my list of great reads for doctors (in no particular order)…

Cutting for Stone by Abrahan Verghese

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

House of God by Samuel Shem

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukheries

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Guwande

William Osler: A Life in Medicine by Michael Bliss

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman

 

  1. The always appropriate gift of money

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If you are going to give gift certificates or money,  “package” it with some humor (in a pill bottle with a “prescription”) or a context (this is to help you buy good food for times you are too busy).

Please let me know (comment or email) anything else to add to this list!  Happy Holidays to all!