Nights (Patients)

The patients you get on a night shift are of a generally different calibre. Until the pubs and clubs shut you can find yourself dealing with a near constant flow of drunks and assaults. Alcohol makes people violent, or suicidal; so after the pubs have closed we tend to have a run of people who have had an argument with their boy/girlfriend and have taken an overdose/slashed their wrists.
While the pubs are open you get the drunks asleep in the street, drunks who have fallen over in the street, drunks who have been fighting, and drunks who have punched a window/door and have broken their hand. We see a lot of drunks…

The number of seriously medically ill people tends to drop, mainly because most of them are in bed asleep, rather than collapsing with heart attacks. You do get your occasional medical problem, but not as many as on a day shift.

As the night progresses towards 3-4am you get your young men with minor illnesses who, because it is dark outside, get scared and call an ambulance. Perception of the seriousness of illness increases during the night, so we tend to get a lot of calls to people who have had diarrhoea/vomiting/headaches/bellyaches/coughs/colds and sniffles all day. You will also get the small child who has a high temperature – parents panic more once the sun goes down.

The night before last we had to go to a tearful mother who's newborn baby was desperately ill – it's umbilical cord had dropped off, I'm guessing that she was asleep in class when the midwife explained that this is what normally happens…

Then as dawn approaches, there are the 'maternataxis', pregnant women who think that they are going to deliver their baby in the next 20 minutes, and so can't call a taxi. This can be a nice easy job to see you off shift, and as long as they walk (and don't moan too much) I'm normally fairly happy to deal with them.

You live in dread for the last job of the morning though, it is fairly common to have a 'suspended' call as one half of an elderly couple wakes up to find that their partner has died in their sleep. Not normally a good end to a shift.

One thought on “Nights (Patients)”

  1. Hi ! I have been reading your blog regularly for awhile now. Being in the health sector back in my country and now, being new to this country as a student, your blog has given me a good perspective of one sector of the health services. It also gives a wondeful perspective of the city too. I wonder if you saw this article in the Observer this weekend which gives an overview of the rising problem (and the antecedents) with alcohol consumption in the UK. Your blog confirms what they say. Ciao!

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