It’s kind of touching when patients and their families notice the hours we’re working.

The service I’m on right now is particularly opportune for this, since the attendings start operating so early, and demand such detailed knowledge of the patients by the residents, that the entire team (intern, resident, chief, couple medical students) has usually come through each patient’s room, severally and ensemble, by 6am every day. Which is certainly annoying, but also noticeable.

In the course of the day we’ll round with an attending. Then we all also come through around 5-6pm, as well as the intern multiple times in between. The people who aren’t completely asleep, or completely absorbed in the TV, can’t help noticing that we’re there around the clock. They also notice that the same small group of us is there virtually every day of the week. They’ll comment, after one of us has had a day off, that they’re glad we got to sleep in. (They didn’t, though, because someone else was in just as early. . .)

One patient has run the entire gamut of the service: preop admission to the floor, postop transfer to a monitored floor, and now in the ICU (don’t ask me why the downward progression; we wish we knew). The family has been so polite; asking the right questions, but also not pestering us when we give our best explanation, and admit that there are things we can’t explain. They’ve also been commenting on the amount of time we spend in the hospital. One of them asked me today if I’ll be off for the weekend, and I said no; he was interested and inquisitive, so I told him the 4 days/month rule; which sounds shocking, when you say it out loud to a person with a semi-normal life. We see it in contrast to the old rules (or non-rules) so to us it sounds good; but although I will, rarely, tell patients and families about 80 hours and 4 days, somehow the old rules seem like a secret that belongs inside the clan.

Which is strange, now that I write it down. Because people do expect their medical providers to be available 24/7 (or to have a thoroughly informed colleague covering), and yet on a personal level, they’re surprised by our lives.

At any rate; it’s nice to be thanked, every now and then.

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