Saturday, July 23, 2011

Quiet Call Day

Today's been really a quiet day. One of the things that I love about being on call in the NICU (OK, I just generically love the NICU) is that there's bedside nurses for all of the patients. If I want the nurse, I can just walk to the bedside and talk to her (there's about four male nurses in a cohort of several hundred NICU nurses and none of them are working today.) This is great for collaborating with the nurses on the plans, and also just creates a really nice work environment. I know most of their names (on my side of the NICU there's two residents, about 5 NPs and probably 75 plus nurses; I try to know all of their names, but it's hard.) They all know me. If I want something, I can go and talk to them face to face, without needing to call or page to find them. I walk around every 4 hours, or so, to check in and it goes quickly and I feel involved and in the loop and like a good doctor.

Most floors aren't like this -- most floors some nurses change at 7am and some at 11am and some at 3pm and some at 7pm and some at midnight and it's hard to know which nurse has whom and if you can't find the nurse, there's a million places where s/he might be. It's harder to be a team.

Since it was so quiet, I was chatting a lot with the nurses, mostly about them and their lives, but also about being on call and what it's like. The fact of the matter is that I like my life with call a lot more than any of the alternatives. I like that for a total of 28 hours, I'm really the doctor for these babies (I have a fellow and an attending, but they're mostly only involved when I call them.)

And there's an asceticism to taking call that can be very rewarding in an odd way. Expelled through the hospital doors in the morning, sleep-deprived, blinking in the bright sunlight, having been in artificial lighting for the last 28 hours, shockingly warm after 28 hours of frigid air-conditioning, you feel reborn into the world. Little pleasures like breezes and being able to eat whenever you feel like it feel poignant.

It's my last call for a month, before I go to the emergency department. I'm a quarter done with calls for the entire year (an advantage of being in genetics) and at the end of the year have nearly five months with no call...I think I might miss it a little.

Three things I've learned today this week
1. Congenital diaphragmatic hernias - are associated with pulmonary hypertension
2. The differential for congenital diaphragmatic hernia is eventration, where the diaphragm is weak, but not truly herniated
3. Hypokalemia can, in and of itself, cause an electrolyte-wasting tubulopathy

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