Surviving Night Float


I been gone for a minute, but that because it's been a busy month. I am back on the inpatient service and just finished up a week of night float. And when you are working 7pm-9am for a week straight and you are secluded from the rest of the world, nothing else really matters but sleeping and eating. There is some silver lining to night float though. You skip all the bureaucracy, rounds, getting pimped on said rounds, and all the mundane days tasks like printing an excuse letter for school. Night float is also when you really feel like a doctor because you have time to slow things down, think things through, and ponder about the wonders of medicine.

I vividly remember my first time on night float. It was July 3rd, my 2nd day as a "real doctor" and I was covering the Hematology/Oncology service. These patients are scary for a new intern: spiking fevers, getting chemotherapy, and having pain crises. On top of the fact that at that point in training, we feel like we have no clue what we are doing. So obviously, I was TERRIFIED. Then to add the icing on the cake, I was on night float so if anything went wrong, I would have to call and wake the attending in the middle of the night.

I was so lucky to be on night float that week with a 3rd year resident who was a doctor in another country, but had to do additional residency training in the US. We were joined at the hip all night and he helped me with all my overnight tasks. I wouldn't order Tylenol without checking in with him first to make sure the dosing and timing were correct. It was because of him that I made it through my first week of nights.

I've come a long way since July 3rd and gained some wisdom along the way about how to power through night float.

Be comfortable, but professional

As you already know, I am not a fan of scrubs. They are stiff and not made for women with curves, or women at all for that matter. And as much as I would prefer to wear legging and a t-shirt, or even one of my night gowns, I always try to look as professional as I can without sacrificing comfort. I bring a nice sweater and wear comfortable shoes and wear the clutches scrubs I own. It's important to be professionally dressed because overnight everyone that walks in the room looks like a shadow. And to have the person who says they are "the doctor" roll in the room with leggings, Uggs and a oversized university sweater it can be even more disorienting. So instead, I wear scrubs with my Uggs lol.

Pack your dinner and snacks and drink water

Night float is notorious for destroying diets and workout regimens. It's a vulnerable time where you feel like you should be able to eat what ever you want since your life sucks so much. But guess what? These habits spill right over into the following weeks. So be prepared the same way you are during a regular weekday. Grab a coffee or tea. Pack a healthy dinner, with vegetables and protein. Bring snacks like fruits and nuts and yogurt. And be sure to drink lots of water. Don't wing it because that's how chinese take out or burgers and fries happen. And let's be real you are probably on a budget and shouldn't be eating out every night any way. And no one can survive on graham crackers, saltine crackers, and tiny cans of ginger ale either, so just be proactive and pack something.

DO NOT bring nail polish to work

Sometimes nights are a little slow. All the children are tucked in and fast asleep. And you have a moment to take a breather. Other times, things are crazy: there are 5 admissions and kids are rolling up from the emergency room, someone spikes a fever and needs lab work or imaging done, someone is in pain and you can't figure out what meds to give them. And on those nights, you are lucky if you even get to use the bathroom. And for some reason, those crazy night always happen when you bring along nail polish just in case things are slow and you have some time. Its like a bad omen. Learn from me, you will never have time. And even if you do, what if something happens and you have to put on gloves and assess a patient?! There goes your manicure.

Don't be afraid to get some sleep

My first week of nights, I was so terrified I couldn't even go to sleep. I was afraid something was gonna happen and I would miss it. Boy was I wrong! First off the nurses will let you know when something has gone wrong, they are def not afraid to page you and wake yo ass up if there's an emergency or if they need you. I also used to feel guilty going to the call room to get some rest. It felt like the walk of shame walking past all the nurses busily charting away. But then I realized, they have protected time, they get hour breaks to actually enjoy their dinner instead of scarfing it down at the computer while trying to chart. They get days off in between their night shifts to be normal people. Residents don't get that. We work several days straight, without that built in protected time or days. So if I want to go back to the call room and flip through Facebook and Instagram for 2 hours, as long as my patients are stable, Ima do it!

Thug it out if you can

I know I just told you a second ago to get some rest, but there are some exceptions to that. Once you get to a certain point in the night where dawn is approaching you might as well power through. If you take a 30 min nap, you are gonna wake up feeling tired and looking tired and then have a harder time falling asleep when you get home.

DO Bring a bonnet or head scarf

In the case that things slow down and you have finished all your work, you should seize the opportunity and get some rest in the on call room. Resident on call rooms always have the bare minimum required for a person to sleep: 1 flat ass pillow, 1 fitted sheet and 1 flat sheet on the thinnest mattress with the sharpest springs you have ever seen. Of course everything is crisp white because they bleach the crap out of them to get all the germs out. These beds are not comfortable for anyone. And for a black woman like my self with curly natural hair that needs to be hydrated in oils and that doesn't mesh well with rough ass cotton pillows, a head scarf/bonnet is a must. Not to mention, I won't be caught slippin' with my hair looking like I've been electrocuted when it's time for sign out.

Bring a tooth brush and other toiletries

There is nothing worse than getting some rest and waking up and talking to your colleagues with morning breath and eye boogers. Take care of your self! Brush your teeth and your hair. Wash your face, put on a moisturizer. Freshen up! It's not only good for your appearance, but also for your morale. And if you forgot to bring a few things, just snag it from the utilities closet.


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