Why You Should Leave Your Ward For A  Break

Or: How To Make Sure You Don’t Start Smoking, Once You Work In  A Hospital

On any ward I have worked there are constant interruptions by colleagues, students, nurses, relatives and patients.  Almost all of their inquiries are legitimate and necessary but the sum of them will drive you crazy!

No moment during which your brain can rest. There is no chance to finish a thought. Not only introverts (like me) are worn down by this chronic noise and try to escape.

Why you need a “stop-doing-list”! And 5 things to write on it.

Whenever I want to improve the quality of my work, my first urge is doing more:

  • Read more journals!
  • Attend more conference!
  • Write more case reports!
But rarely does this lead to improvement of my work, because as it turns out:  Time is limited. The day only lasts 24 hours. and cramming too much in these 24 hours only leads t overwhelm.

If you really want to improve in your field, you have to the opposite. Doing less is often more. So stop doing the wrong things, so you can focus on the important tasks.

You need a stop-doing-list: So what should be on it?

1. Stop regurgitating information.

Sometimes I have the feeling we are talking 80% of the time about what we are planning to do and why, instead of just doing it.

Does it really make sense to discuss a patient with the colleague from the previous shift, with your boss, another consulting doctor and the radiologist? Remember, nothing gets done by talking.

2. Stop talking:

Easy on the smalltalk: I know, I know, keep the atmosphere nice, having a chat with the patients and the nurses is important. But I only use it as a time-filler, when I have to spend time with the patient.  (during procedures etc). But besides that, I focus on the job.

3. Stop over-documenting:

Document only relevant things. The little amount of time left over after talking about our patients and what we are going to do with them is easily consumed by our legal obligation to document.

This was well meant, but as Tucholsky said: well meant is the opposite of well-done. So keep it focused, short and simple.

4. Stop letting others interrupt you:

Easier said than done. Of course you have to answer the phone. But many times I’ll ask: „What’s up, this an emergency? I’m in the middle of something”

At least the caller gets to the point right away. Many times they don’t call me again. Also, keep your door closed. Leaving your door open is like begging to be interrupted.

5. Stop confusing „chaos” with pseudo-emergencies (which will again cause interruptions):

When I started my career,  urgent matters constantly kept coming up, most of them caused by my lack of organization. All of these things were urgent and showed up as emergencies.

Better organization, preparation and pro-active thinking would have prevented most of them:

  • Patient goes to angiogram and has no IV-Line.
  • Patient about to get a pacemaker but written informed consent is missing.

By the way, I’m not opposed to working hard and much. We just have to spend our time with things that are useful and avoid ineffective working habits.

Question: What habit goes on your Stop-Doing-List? Leave a comment below!

How to recover from a night shift

Sleep deprivation is one of the main sources of errors. But many times after a night shift, you’ll have to show up the same day in the hospital for another night shift. That is why after a night shift we should start replenishing our energy levels right away. Ultimately there is only one way to recover from a night shift: high quality sleep. But how can we achieve that?

Photo courtesy by Bigstock

Keep Your Energy Levels At Max – And Boost Your Career!

Few fields demand such a high degree of energy, concentration and emotional stability in order to do a great job, as medicine.


Listening attentively, suturing a vessel, implanting a catheter- those are all tasks that require energy, focus and concentration.

Whether you do a good job in your internship will greatly depend on what you do off the job. Coming to work physically fit and mentally strong will definitely boost your career.

In this job you need to keep your batteries charged. Here are three steps to high energy levels.

How to Get Through a Night Shift: My Six-Step-Formula.

Getting through a night without a minute of sleep is what I find the hardest about being a doctor. Lack of sleep will make me unconcentrated,  irritable,  and more error-prone. And during a night shift, it’s not your only task to stay awake: you are supposed to work, make good decisions,  and save lives.

Courtesy of IStockphoto.com

During my first years of my residency I tested several strategies not only  to stay awake, but also alert and concentrated during a night shift.

Here I share what worked, and what didn’t .