I often take a sleep aid when I'm not on call. If I don't, and I've been up a lot the preceding nights, I tend to wake up at 2 A.M. and stay awake. This doesn't do much for my bedside manner the next day. Taking a sleeper on non-call nights has always seemed like a safe thing to do, until recently. Here's the story:
I'd come off seven days of hospitalist shifts, and was about to enter seven nights of the same. There was one night off in between those weeks, so it seemed critically important to take a sleeper in order to catch up. At 10 P.M. I took an Ambien and went to bed.
At 2 A.M., the phone rang. It was one of the obstetricians. "We're going to C-section and there's no RN first-assistant on call."
"Well, I just got off a tough week of hospitalist, so I'd rather not come in," I said dreamily.
"OK, I'll call everybody else. If I can't get anyone, I'll call you back."
I fell asleep cradling the phone. When it rang again, I picked it up right away.
"We do need you, Theresa," the OB said.
"OK, I'm on my way."
I got out of bed, changed into OR scrubs, got in my car, drove to the hospital, walked into the building, into the OR, said hi to the OR staff, scrubbed, gowned, climbed up onto the footstool I always have to use because I'm so short, blotted/retracted/followed suture as commanded by the OB, cut the umbilical cord, congratulated the mother, stepped away from the operating table when the OB dismissed me, de-gowned, de-gloved, walked out of the building, got into my car, drove home, changed back into pajamas, and went back to sleep.
The next morning, I didn't remember any of it.
Slowly, after a couple of cups of coffee, images began to filter in, starting with the memory of cutting the cord, then looking across the table at the OB. They came back to me like snippets of a dream. In fact, I believed it was all a dream until a momentary doubt made me look in the laundry hamper.
On top of the hamper, I found a pair of OR scrubs.
Moral of this story: if you're not on call, turn the damn ringer off the phone.