Many of you, dear readers, work in busy hospital settings. And often, you do so at night. I have written a lot about nights down the years. In fact, my first book was a compilation of columns titled ‘Working Knights,’ in a word play on a column I wrote called ‘The White Knights of Medicine.’
My 2 years of locums haven’t been too bad as nights go. Usually I’ve worked overnight in critical access facilities where nights often meant actual, uninterrupted sleep. But I’m facing three busy nights, starting tonight. I’m working in Medium Community Hospital, in a popular tourist location. I’m not excited, but neither am I filled with dread. Over the years, I think I have become hardened to nights in a way. While I’m working, I can really pull it together. Having 22 years under my belt, since residency, makes for confidence. Working so often alone, in the middle of ‘East Egypt,’ also adds a level of certainty and resilience. The recovery is the difficult part. The next day I usually feel fairly awful. But I get the patients seen, and more importantly (these days) I get the charts done. I feel like I’m at my peak as a professional.
Some of that also has to do with routine. I have things I do when I work nights. First of all, I rarely sleep well the first night. I accept that fact. Second, I take enough food and enough drink to stoke the fires all night long (and it’s a pretty big fire when I’m tired). Third, I wear a jacket or soft shirt because my cortisol drop at night leaves me shivering. Fourth, I pray.
Yep, that’s right. I have a routine. It’s no secret that I’m a Christian. I write about it with some regularity. And thus, I incorporate prayer into my pre-shift routine. I do it, in fact, for every shift, whether day or night. Occasionally I forget. God understands.
So what do I pray? Let me give you my routine.
I pray the Doxology, the Gloria Patri, for my family, for my patients and then the Lord’s Prayer ( or Pater Noster if you’re of a Latin inclination). (If you grew up in some churches you sang the first two and you may know the tune.) My routine goes like this:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise him all creatures here below,
Praise him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be.
World without end,
Father, God, please watch over Jan, Sam, Seth, Elijah and Elysa tonight and keep them in your care. Bring us all safely home together. Bless my patients, and let no one be seriously injured, or killed, or die. And give me insight, wisdom, knowledge and love to do my work. In Jesus’ name.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. They kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Amen.
I’m not saying everyone should do this. It’s my thing. It’s my strength in time of trial and fatigue. And despite it, bad things happen. God is sovereign over ER’s too.
But I’ll tell you this. With the right prayer, the right food and drink and a warm jacket, I can endure almost anything night shift throws my way!
God bless you on yours.