How I Get My Mind Ready for the Night Shift

Posted on Wed, Nov 30, 2016
How I Get My Mind Ready for the Night Shift

By Shilpa Amin, MD
I have been out of residency for seven years. For the duration of my career I have worked the late shift, either 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. or 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. In the past four years, I transitioned solely to nights. Why, you ask. How? I usually get looks of bafflement when I tell people that I work overnight in a very busy urban emergency department with single coverage, while juggling a family with three young children.
I transitioned to nights because it was easier for my family life. My children are in school. I typically leave when they are sleeping and can get home just before they wake. I sleep when they are at school and wake up to pick them up after school. They hardly notice that I’ve gone to work. This works well until they have a day off from school and don’t understand why I’m sleeping all day! Luckily because I work nights, I have a fairly set schedule and can work around their school calendar.
People ask me how I stay up all night. After all, it’s not natural. The key is having a routine that I go through each time I leave for work. My shift starts at 9 p.m. I start my routine at 7 p.m. My ritual is to read books to my children, put my scrubs on, brew and drink Mauritius tea at the kitchen table and decompress. l leave at 8:30 p.m. and pick up treats for the night staff from the same café. I call my husband or my sister on the drive, and park my car in the same spot.
I take a look at the waiting room on my way in. It’s been busier than normal the past few weeks. When I walk inside, I greet everyone and mentally get my plan together with my advanced practice provider about which patients to see. Throughout the night I drink a few cups of green tea for a boost of energy. The 4 a.m. hour is especially tough for me.
On my 20-minute drive home, I listen to my favorite station on Pandora and that’s usually enough time for me to decompress from the events of the night. When I get home, I send the kids off to school and fall back to sleep!
I look forward to my evening and morning routines because it gives me a sense of control, and that is rare during an ED shift.

Shilpa Amin, MD, FACEP, is a full-time attending emergency physician. She received a bachelor’s degree from Rosemont College in Rosemont, Pa., and her medical degree from SUNY Downstate, Brooklyn, N.Y. She completed the Jacobi/Montefiore Emergency Medicine Residency Program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and served as chief resident. She enjoys spending her free time cooking, traveling and trying new cuisines with her husband and three young children.

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