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A Day in the Life of an Internal Medicine Resident on Night Shifts

Doctor team standing in a line.

For a person who hates mornings and switches into night shift without issues, nights are a blessing.

Typical night shifts as a resident on general medicine services start at 6 p.m. to relieve your day team, and finish at 6 a.m., at which point your lovely colleagues return to let you take a break. My “day” on nights begins with a slew of alarms that start at 5 p.m. I stretch, brew my coffee, and if my first round of alarm clocks succeeded, I’ll have enough time to take a lap and check in on my apartment plants. After a quick shower to officially “wake up,” I head to the hospital to sign out my colleagues and begin my night cross-covering and admitting patients.

After the initial busy start with checking in on the sicker patients, familiarizing myself with the list and settling in to my to-do’s, the night becomes a luxury. This is the time where I find myself most connected to building my knowledge base in medicine. Without the important yet incredibly taxing issues of daytime discharge planning and endless Q2 minute Epic pages, I enjoy spending time in each patient’s chart, reading about their disease processes and having time to look up the “why” to a lot of questions I accrue during day shifts. On nights, I can focus on medicine much more without being burdened by the endless number of tasks we as medicine residents have to check off to move a patient’s plan forward.

As the night progresses past midnight, in between tucking new admissions away, there is a quiet loneliness. I’ve lost the hullabaloo of a bustling daytime hospital. There’s no communal teaching, noon conference, lunch. I miss the camaraderie of seeing equally busy residents and colleagues speed walking in the hallways. But the beauty of social encounters is not gone on nights. The best part of the night is always social rounding — exploring the medicine services and seeing which colleagues are on for the night, who I can bring some coffee and candy to, feeling the connection with a co-resident who’s “stuck” learning in a quiet hospital overnight, just like me.

I end my night after signing out to my day team. As the hospital’s energy picks up and people come in for work, I leave. I would otherwise never wake up early on my own prerogative, but I get the chance to enjoy a peaceful morning before falling asleep to re-energize myself for another round.

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