Post-Call Stress Syndrome

My medical school prepared me very well for my floor medicine months, in terms of how to function as an intern, what to know as a physician, and even how to relate to patients and families.

What I haven't been taught, nor have I seen mentioned anywhere, is how to manage the curious camraderie-withdrawal that occurs among colleagues, after a call month ends. The scenario, spelled out:

You've just spent pretty much every day of the month with a resident, maybe a co-intern and student as well -- and every third or fourth night you'd serve together in an exhilarating, giddy, sleepless haze of admissions and cross-coverage. You share a lot of laughs, maybe shed some tears, learn a lot, and certainly freak out about the workload on a frequent basis. Then, the month ends and you may never see your teammates again -- certainly, never in the same context.

So, what to do? Get together for drinks, a few weeks later? That doesn't seem right -- you spent all your time together wishing you were with family and friends, and even if your new schedule permits it, revisiting your old medicine colleague seems like a step in the wrong direction.

Instead, there's the occasional email, and a wave and a smile across a crowded amphitheater. If you pass each other in the hall, you reminisce briefly about that nurse who waited until 5 AM to page you about a diet order, or the frequent-flier DKA patient who said, "Doc, I think I've got The Diabetus again."

And you move on to the next month, the next team, the next set of memories.