Balancing social life with a career in EM
It’s a glorious Thursday afternoon. The sun is warm outside, the air is crisp, and everyone is heading home to start their weekend. While all the hospital employees are stuck in their cars on their way out of the hospital, the entrance gate is wide open, welcoming you in for your evening shift. Ah yes, another weekend working in the A&E.
Naturally, as an ED physician, you are left to pick up the pieces of reckless drivers & RTA’s, suture stab wounds, or even treat a casual renal colic. While the treatment room is bustling with patients, you don’t really notice the time. But when things start getting quiet, you start wondering what everyone else is doing in the outside world.
Instagram stories, Snapchat selfies, Facebook posts all featuring your friends (or foes) out and about. ‘Why wasn’t I invited?’ you wonder. But then you recall you were invited; sadly, you had to turn them down.
“I’m sorry, I have a shift that day,” you said. And with the power of eight words, you have single handedly ruined your social life. Or have you?
“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.” I chose to study medicine, I chose to become a doctor, I chose to specialize in Emergency Medicine. Every one of those choices came with tremendous rewards, and certainly some not-so pleasant consequences.
I will never forget the look of pride in my parents’ eyes the day I graduated, or the electric joy that surged down my spine when I matched for my residency program. Could I have chosen a completely different path for myself? One where I don’t have to come in to work in the middle of the night and leave with sunrise? Perhaps. But this is what I chose, and that choice made me who I am today.
The shift shuffle
The universal reaction to the statement “I am an emergency resident” is, “Cool! But how can you manage with the shifts?” The simplest answer is, “You get used to it.”
The quintessential tool in the arsenal of any physician, yet alone emergency physician, is time management. Remember all those lectures you slept through trying to teach you to balance between work and your personal life? Well now’s the time to put it all into action. And if (like me) you’ve never paid attention to those classes, it’s never too late to learn a trick or two.
Sometimes, you’re fortunate enough to have an understanding rota master who tries to accommodate every resident’s needs to the best of his or her ability (even reading that was a mouthful- imagine doing it). Even then, it would behoove you to plan your shifts in advance. If you know there’s a particular day you’d like to be off on, submit a request. Heck, if your friends are understanding enough, plan your outings. Share your rota with them as soon as you get it to try and fit a day that suits everyone. And if you miss this month’s barbecue, there’s always next month’s.
The point is…
It’s never easy balancing between your personal & professional life, regardless of your profession. Yes, it may be relatively harder being in our shoes, but we love our shoes enough to be able to switch between the sneakers we run around resus with and the heels we hit the dance floor with, effortlessly.
And to prove it, here’s a photo from my trip last weekend (which I planned a month in advance) where I got to go all the way to the beautiful city of Khorfakkan, when half of my friends didn’t even know where that was.