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Tips from the trenches: Surviving being on call

We're big fans of lists here on Scope (see here, here and here), so I thought I would highlight one that offers "10 ways to survive (and maybe even enjoy) being on call." Geared towards students and doctors who have the "emotionally and physically draining" experience of being on call in the hospital for 24 hours, Baylor College of Medicine physician Mary Brandt, MD, (no relation) suggests:

Eat well and eat often. Do not rely on fast food or the hospital cafeteria. By far the best plan is to bring really good food from home. You need to have “comfort” food on call. If you don’t cook, buy really good prepared food that you can look forward to. Make sure you have “plan B” ready if your call day gets completely out of control by having an energy bar (my favorite is Kind bars), peanut butter sandwich or other “quick” food in your white coat pocket.


Make your beeper a “Zen bell”. Use your pager or phone as a tool for mindfulness. When it goes off, take a deep breath, relax the muscles in your face and shoulders and be present.  This is a proven practice to decrease stress – try it, it works!


Learn. Take advantage of the unique educational opportunity of being on call. The fact that there are fewer people around at night and on the weekends has a real impact on how and what you learn on call.   If you are a student or junior resident, you are more likely to be the first person evaluating new consults and admissions. You are also more likely to have one on one time with your senior resident or faculty as you care for patients together.  If you are further along in your training,  the “down time” on call (if there is any!) is a great time to catch up on reading.

Previously: The OMG Factor: Curbing your enthusiasm during clinical rotations

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