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On Being a Holiday Shut-in


Radiologists can see everything that they are missing when they work holidays.

One of the downsides of providing health care is the potential for working, or at least being on-call for same, while the rest of society is enjoying a holiday off. There’s also the risk of losing weekends and, for that matter, nights. Some room exists for personal preference; if such things matter to you, for instance, you might strive to work in a daytime boutique dermatology practice rather than surgery at a level-1 trauma center. Even within radiology, there are those working weekdays in outpatient imaging centers and then there are others night-hawking, with compensation presumably varying accordingly.

I’ve never been a big believer in the magical value of having an extra day off just because a calendar says the date is special. Still, when virtually every friend and family member is doing so, and perhaps issuing invitations to come and join their fun, it can be mirthless to have other responsibilities. Sometimes, the biggest burden seems to be admitting to them that, sorry, I can’t make it because I’ll be working (“as usual,” some will unhesitatingly remind me).

Some working holidays are worse than others. I tend to be partial to New Year’s Eve, for instance, and as luck had it I got stuck covering the ICU during internship on that very day. Happy phone calls from reveling friends wishing me well while I endlessly drew bloods and wrote progress notes surrounded by the pinging of various support machinery failed to cushion the blow. The experience left me with the firm notion that there were some days I would do my utmost to avoid working during the rest of my career. This year, however, I somehow wound up working NYE again.

Have to say, it wasn’t anywhere near as trying this time around, and not just because I was doing it from the comfort of a home office. In fact, as with many holidays, I was somewhat glad for the excuse not to head out the door. Putting aside the not-infrequent happenstance of holiday celebrations failing to live up to expectations, I’ve come to enjoy not dealing with traffic, humanoid and vehicular, both on my way to and at whatever venues are on the agenda.

My workload also contains a constant stream of reminders as to what I might encounter, had I headed out into the fray. Beginning with that very first 24 hours in the ICU: A late teen or early twenty-something lad got admitted for alcohol poisoning, as his buddies, seeing that he had passed out, kindly left him lying on his parents’ front porch. Then, there were the multiple trauma cases I saw this year, including drunk-driving incidents, altercations, and even a gunshot wound (through the perineum and exiting via the spine…ouch).[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"30863","attributes":{"alt":"calendar","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_5584744022969","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"3245","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 107px; width: 160px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Does that therefore mean I intend to sign up for every holiday shift forthwith? Notwithstanding the bonus payment I receive for working when other rads would rather not, no…in fact, I have already laid the groundwork for being off next New Year’s. Still, I don’t expect I’ll be gnashing my teeth if I find myself reading studies on Christmas, Labor Day, or July 4. I would say to let me know if I missed out on anything good…but I suspect the scans I receive will tell me all I need to know in that regard.

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