Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ultrasound Slave

I just met up with my old neighbor for a walk with her dogs. It had been some time since we had seen each other, and we caught up.

She is working per diem at a local hospital that is very busy. She works at one clinic and two hospitals in the medical care organization. Unlike at her last job, she takes call, from home.

Guess what? Her hours are worse than mine! Four-thirty p.m. to one a.m., being up from two a.m. until seven a.m., never knowing until the last minute if she was going to get called in.

I had a hunch that when I started up with the one-hundred-twenty hour weeks in med school, that other industries would follow suit.

My sister worked in the mortgage business during the good years before 2008 when the real estate market crashed. She started with normal nine to five hours, but then got the East Coast hours. Gradually, she was coming in at four a.m., and also working most weekends. A family friend actually worked there and brought in an air mattress to let him sleep under his desk! That way he would not miss a call.

Mandatory rest periods are part of the airline and the trucking industry. So are work hour restrictions in place for residents in training, M.D.'s who are working towards their specialty. But not for the working docs. I have worked almost forty-eight hours straight, on OB with little breaks here and there. I bang out a seventeen hour day in the operating room every week or two, with continuous anesthesia care.

Studies show that after sixteen hours at work, one is impaired as much as the legal alcohol limit in the blood. But nobody wants to increase staffing in the hospital! What has sprung up is the hospitalist, the physician that no longer works in the office and is hospital based. Another new job description is nocturnist. I did that one for a while, babysitting the ICU and Step Down Unit for all the surgical patients. A similar job goes to the laborist, the in-house OB-Gyn who is on the Labor Deck at all times.

Times are changing. But with both parents working, and with work hours like mine becoming more typical, we have become an almost slave-like working class.

It is better than not working! my friend with her good mid-western values said. But even still, you do not have health insurance! I thought to myself of her situation.

When are we going to get some rest? When is Survival going to be somewhat straightforward, and not requiring such heroic efforts to keep up?


Reiki Doc