Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Life as a Call Girl

I spend 1/4 of my life on call. With 10 years of private practice in OB/GYN under my belt that's 2.5 years that I've been tied to my phone. Some nights I sleep peacefully through the night, but more often than not, I get to trek in at 3 am to catch a baby or two. Over the years, I've come up with my own set of on call rules to help navigate the chaos that can be a call night.


Don't dread it. Obviously, I don't wake up on my call day with a spring in my step, open the windows and shout for joy for all to hear "Yeah, I get to be on call today!" But I don't dread it either. I've learned to deal with it and enjoy it the best I can. If I didn't make peace with being on call then, I end up wishing away a quarter of my life.

Don't complain about it. When I chose OB/GYN I chose a crazy, sleep deprived life. Sometimes when I'm working postcall I will "explain" to people why I look hot mess of disheveled craziness (ie I delivered 17 babies last night). I try to keep it in a upbeat joking tone and not a "Woe is me! I work all the time" tone. We all know those providers who claim that every single call is the"Worst call ever" and that is simply annoying.

Don't indulge in the 3 am donuts. When you are up all night, the 3 am donuts can look so very tempting. Sometimes I delude myself into thinking "I deserve a treat" for having to work all night, however my 40 year old metabolism does not agree and I regret it later. I always keep healthier snacks like almonds and trail mix with me for just such emergencies.

Don't schedule appointments. After getting called in half way through a haircut once, I learned this lesson the hard way.

Don't socialize. If my leaving the event will be awkward, I won't schedule it when I'm on call; like dinner with just one other couple. If it's a bigger group of friends, I will sometimes try to go if I can. Also having people over is definitely out as well. Having to rush out half way through cooking dinner is not a great plan.


Do live your life. I can't put my life on hold completely when I'm on call. I still go to soccer games and church, I just drive separately in case I get called in. I still exercise, I just make sure when I'm running I have my phone on me and am always less than 10 min from my house. Sure this means that occasionally I have to race into the hospital all sweaty and get amniotic fluid on my Lulu tights but there are enough excuses not to exercise and I won't let call be one of them.

Do keep some entertainment close by. A lot of call can be "hurry up and wait." I often spend time waiting for an OR to open up or waiting for patient to deliver. I use this time for catch up charting and CME and reading.  This is actually my one bit of call superstition: I always keep a novel with me in hopes I won't need it.

Do Bathe. My biggest pet peeve is getting called to the hospital stat when I'm in the middle of a shower. Yes, the ruptured ectopic pregnancy is far more important than me having a bad hair day, but still it's annoying. I wish I could get away with not bathing on call but that would not be socially acceptable. Instead, I keep extra toiletries handy to throw in bag a the last minute as needed to get ready at the hospital.

Do know your limits. I am human. Occasionally, I need to ask for help. If a call is particularly awful I will get one my NPs to field phone calls. There are times I've cancelled part of my afternoon postcall to go home and rest. So no, I don't complain about every single call, but when I'm dangerously tired I listen to my body and rest.

So there are my call survival tips. I'd love to hear from the other MIMs on how they maintain sanity while juggling their pagers.


  1. Those are pretty useful, even if you are not a mom. Thanks

  2. I'm an active member of a lay-led synagogue. I will go to services when I'm on call, and I will sing for services when I'm on call. I won't lead services. Since my call doesn't involve dropping everything and running to the hospital, we do sometimes invite people over when I'm on. I've gotten very good at snagging aisle seats at my daughter's dance recitals and school events in case I have to answer a page. When I'm on call and I go out with my husband, he drives - it makes him nervous to watch me juggle my pager and the steering wheel. My call superstition is that I always carry a portable charger and cable with me so I never run out of phone juice - and I don't let anyone else use the charger, which annoys my teenager to no end.

  3. Thanks for sharing the wisdom of your experience and saving us from half a haircut!

  4. Great post Rh+! My biggest challenge with call is avoiding the dread that leads up to it. When I'm actually working I'm fine because I'm too busy to think about how crappy it is sometimes. It's the anticipation I need to get over so I can just enjoy the days leading up to it.


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