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Diary of a new doctor's first night shift

Post date: 20/05/2019 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 21/05/2019

Dr Jacqueline Simms’ first night shift as an F2

Tonight is my first night shift as an F2 at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital. I’ll be covering the emergency centre and medical wards. I’m very excited about being let loose to deal with sick patients; the experience will definitely enhance my confidence. Staying up all night will be easy – late night revision sessions and post-exam nights out have trained me well.


Not sure what to do with myself this afternoon. I’ve tried sleeping, but instead dim panic has set in as I consider the responsibility of the on-call bleep. I decide to swot up on emergencies.


As soon as I arrive I get stuck into the handover. There are already 6 patients waiting to be seen. As I make a note of my jobs for the night, I take the bleep from a weary day doctor. The fresh energy among our night team battalion is comforting, but I have little time to enjoy it, as the shrill of my bleep sounds.


I’m exhausted. The bleep has not stopped. The wards are constantly bleeping me, while I try to clerk in-patients. ‘Good organisation’ and the ‘ability to prioritise’ are no longer simply buzz phrases for job application forms – they are a means of survival.


Hospitals at night are eerie places. Bleeps and bells are distorted by the deafening silence of long corridors and sub-delirious minds. I haven’t had a break yet. I’m called to see more unwell patients – pulmonary oedema, ventricular tachycardia. Treating these patients first-hand enthrals me.


I’m experiencing a bizarre mixture of hunger and nausea. My cortisol levels must be rock bottom. A lull in the emergency centre permits a dash to the wards to review an elderly patient. I crash into a hospital bed on the way, waking the entire bay. I locate the patient and resist the temptation to sedate. My assessment is rewarding – he has a pneumonia brewing, but where are his notes?

Weary and frustrated, I slump down heavily at the desk. The bleep barks at me and I want to bark back. It’s a sister in the emergency centre telling me to “get down here – there are five waiting”. I feel tearful. Luckily, my guardian angel arrives in the form of a nurse, who places a cup of tea in front of me, along with the patient’s notes. The kindness and unspoken understanding from my fellow night worker picks me up and I journey on.


The sun is rising and I am aspirating a large haemothorax. I feel dizzy but strangely euphoric, thinking how much I love my career. What other professions have this in the job description?


Time for a post-take ward round. Feeling proud of surviving the night I am ready to present all the wonderful management plans I instigated. Yet I feel deflated as fresh-faced seniors remind me of diagnoses I did not consider, tests I still need to book – all reasonable points, but my tired brain only hears criticism. I won’t let this ruin my mood, off home now for food and a warm bed.

It was a busy, stressful experience, but dare I say…good fun? That’s fortunate because I have another three nights to go.

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