Night Shifts: Love’em or Hate’em

I’m happy to welcome multi-published Canadian author Dr. Melissa Yi. Today, Melissa shares an entertaining post about night shifts and her new release, Graveyard Shift.

Here’s Melissa!

Graveyard Shift, the name of my new Hope Sze thriller, is slang for the night shift.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, night shifts are powerful beasts that you must know how to control as an emergency doctor. So it seems like an appropriate subject for the Power of 10.

Here are five reasons to hate ‘em mixed with five to love ‘em.


Hate #5: Fewer tests

At my tiny rural hospital, I don’t have access to extended labs or any X-rays after hours, let alone ultrasound technicians, CT scans, or MRI’s.

This is scary. Sure, we have a portable ultrasound and our stethoscopes and our training, but anything could go wrong.

Love #5: Bragging rights

No one admits this, but if I’m doing a night shift, the whole world has to know about my extreme dedication. I post signs on my door saying, “DO NOT DISTURB! NIGHT SHIFT!” I warn new friends that I don’t answer my cell in the ER, and I turn everything off before a night shift. Because I’m doing a NIGHT SHIFT. Are you doing a NIGHT SHIFT? No? Then you are not as wild as me. Sorry

Hate #4: Skeletal Staff

We only had one nurse in my rural ER overnight a few years ago. Now I have two, but the volumes have gone up, meaning that we can have many people, some of them on cardiac monitors, including patients who have been admitted but don’t have a bed on the floor, or who’ve had a heart attack and are waiting to be transferred to the heart institute. We can only juggle so many patients before our brains and beds overload.

Love #4: Chill patients

Some night shift patients are a different breed. They’re not the high-strung 40-year-olds who’ve been hanging out with Dr. Google and getting themselves revved up for the past six hours. They’re the teenagers wandering in at 3 a.m. because their toe looks funny. Tell them their toe is fine, and instead of saying, “But don’t you think I need a C-reactive protein? I read that a CRP can be extremely helpful in situations like this,” they say “Okay” and go home.

Hate #3: Drunk or wasted patients

Okay, not everyone. But many people! More than you’d think. The ones roll in regularly (“Is that Sam again?” “Of course it is.”). And the ones who think a company Christmas party is a good reason to do shot after shot after bottle after bottle.

Love #3: “If I work nights, I can be home with my kids during the day.”

This is the #1 reason nurses give for working night shifts. Personally, I would deteriorate into a seething mess if I worked all night and then spent all day with my knee-high offspring, but I admire the people who do this.

Hate #2: I am alone for a long time

I work in a single coverage emergency room. That means I’m the only MD guaranteed in house. Family doctors have clinics during weekdays and some evenings, but after 7 p.m. and every weekend, I am the only physician. The buck stops with me. Every code, every lawsuit, has my name on it.

Yes, I can call specialists at other hospitals for help. It doesn’t mean they’ll be instantly available.

And night shifts last from 6 p.m. until 8 or 9 a.m.—if you leave on time. Many times, we stay late to see a patient through or chart.

Love #2: I’m alone with good people

The nurses focus on me. When I first started at one of my hospitals, we used to have a single nurse dedicated to the doctor, so that every time a wrote an order, he or she was on it. Now, when up to six doctors are work, the nurses are sometimes like, “Aaaagh! Too many orders! Take a break.”

I miss those dedicated days. But on the night shift, I’ve got it back.

And the nurses are some of my favourite people. We make jokes. We laugh. One super doctor (not me) makes fancy desserts before her night shifts, so it’s kind of a party.

Hate #1: I’m tired and more prone to mistakes

Some people may love all-nighters. Not me, and certainly not multiple ones in a row. Studies have documented more medical errors at night, when staff is tired and overworked. I try to counterbalance this by double-checking doses and by telling nurses to please let me know if they spot anything amiss. Two or three heads are better than one, and we need all brains on deck at 3 a.m.

Love #1. I get all the cool cases

No other doctor siphons off the shoulder dislocation or the pre-arrest. I’m it. And that is the #1 reason to do emergency medicine—because you love the thrills, the bizarre, the extremes of humanity.

So there you have it. Love it or hate it, night shifts aren’t going away.

And if you want to read about the world’s worst night shift, I wrote my next thriller about it: Graveyard Shift! Thanks so much to Joanne for having me.

Buy Links

Amazon | Wind Tree Press

Kobo is kindly offering a promo code, GRAVEYARD100, so you can grab a free copy here.

Some of the proceeds will prevent violence against women. Part of them will go to a scholarship in honour of Dr. Elana Fric, and some will go to the Akwesasne Family Wellness Program.

Thanks again!

Bio

Melissa Yi wields a stethoscope and a scalpel as an emergency physician. She also pens the Hope Sze medical thrillers, which have been named one of the best Canadian suspense books by the Globe and Mail, CBC Books, and The Next Chapter. Yi was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime story in Canada and shortlisted for the Derringer Award for the best short mystery fiction in the English language. Her novels will debut in audio as Kobo Originals on November 5th. Sometimes, she sleeps.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Sgt. Scott Coulter – Inspired Graveyard Shift

Sgt. Coulter will attend this evening’s Facebook Launch Party for Graveyard Shift. All are welcome. Find out more here.


The M.D. Writer-Mom

I’m happy to welcome doctor and award-winning mystery author Melissa Yuan-Innes aka Melissa Yi to the Second Act series. Today, Melissa shares her multi-act life and the Hope Sze Medical Mystery Series.

Here’s Melissa!


So far, I’m spinning three different careers simultaneously. I’m an emergency physician, which is my most stressful, high-stakes job. I’m a writer who professionally published her first short story and poem in medical school. And I, personally, wouldn’t feel complete without my children.

Medicine takes up the most real estate in my life. I was a perpetual student for a quarter century, memorizing facts, waking up at all hours of the night, and eventually making life and death decisions.

When I finally finished training in emergency medicine, I felt uneasy. I’d been shackled to a schedule, rotating from specialty to specialty and hospital to hospital, and now I could literally practice anywhere in the world, as long as I got the proper licensing and my husband agreed to it.

I told my friends, “It’s like the Simpsons episode where Homer goes up in space and smashes the terrarium, and as the ants go flying off in zero gravity, they’re chittering, ‘Freedom! Horrible, horrible freedom!’” Watch here.

In my heart, though, I knew what I wanted to do. The same thing I’d wanted to do since I was five years old. I wanted to write.

For that, I needed time and energy. Since 24 hour shifts are not conducive to creativity, I had to limit my emergency shifts.

I said to my husband, “Now that I’ve graduated, I can finally make money. That’s what everyone else is doing. Is it crazy that I want to write?”

Matt is an engineer who takes emotions out of the equation. He basically said, “You went to school for so many years so that you can afford to write.” He has offered to support me if I want to write, but I never really considered it. I wanted to be my own patron of the arts, able to support myself, my family, and my writing.

It means that I’m a relatively impoverished doctor. One of my friends made fun of me because she made more in six months than I did in a year. I wish I were a more productive writer. And my kids constantly complain that I don’t spend enough time with them, and were quite piteous as they waved goodbye to me yesterday, as I drove through the ice to my evening shift.

On the other hand, I am happy. I can and did run last Saturday’s night shift—and CBC Books selected Human Remains (https://windtreepress.com/portfolio/human-remains/), my latest medical thriller, as their top mystery pick for their holiday gift guide (http://www.cbc.ca/books/10-books-for-those-mad-for-mysteries-on-your-list-1.4442631).

Where to find Melissa…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon

Sign up for Melissa’s newsletter here and get a free novella starring Dr. Hope Sze.

Joanne here!

Melissa, thank you for sharing your intriguing journey. I’m impressed by your work ethic and the number of books you have written. Best of luck in the future!

Intrigued by the author’s back story, I decided to read Code Blues, the first book in the Hope Sze Medical Mystery series. Captivated from the start, I found myself enmeshed in a medical drama that kept me up two nights in a row. From Ms. Yi’s vivid descriptions, I could easily imagine the dilapidated Montreal hospital and the conflicted characters, who struggle with boundaries and relationships. The murder of a beloved doctor sets in motion a riveting narrative that takes many unexpected twists and turns. I continually second-guessed myself as I attempted to identify the murderer in this well-plotted, character-driven novel.