Late Evenings and Early Mornings: the Ramblings of the Night F1

It’s the middle of the night. Later, actually; more like the middle of the early morning, and I cannot sleep. Not for want of trying – I tossed and turned on a too-short sofa for minutes that felt like hours, various awkard poses resulting in various pinned-and-needled extremeties. Doesn’t help that it’s cold here – the minus numbers outside are making insidious advances into the building and my collapsing metabolic rate at the nadir of the night is insufficient to hold back the chill.

Instead, then, of soothing my somewhat-overdrawn consciousness I have chosen to write. No focused thought or topic; simply a stream-of-consciousness affair that better suits my sleep-deprived mind. The bleep sitting next to me –hah. The bleep sitting next to me has just gone off, which is ironic considering the intent of the half-finished sentence left above. That always happens.

Time to re-engage…


It struck me the other day that between the twentysomething F1s in the hospital, we provide medical cover 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for several hundred patients at a time. We are the grease in the wheels (don’t make the mistake of assuming the F1s are in any way actual wheels!) of the NHS – scan-requesting, fluid-reviewing, drug-prescribing and blood-testing information-gatherers, organising and documenting and general-dogsbodying in wards across the country. Clinically, we’re not very valuable due to our inexperience and lack of knowledge, but despite that if we all went down with norovirus one day I don’t know how much of the inpatient service would stay upright. Grease in the wheels might not seem like such a glamourous job, but we’re part of the team, and what kind of engine runs without grease in it?


It’s weird how when I’m on nights my sleep cycle is inverted, but I still eat cereal in the (actual, calendar-day) morning and ‘dinner’ in the evening. And lunch at night. In a way, my meals are inverted within the inversion of my sleep cycle. Wheels within wheels within wheels.


Almost everything I do in this job could be done by anyone with a modicum of training. Signing, documenting, effectively taking dictation on the ward round; these could be done by anybody. Bloods, cannulating, arterial blood gases – again. It’s fairly simple. The job of an F1 is 98% paperwork and practicalities.

The remaining 2% of the time you get to shine; summon forth those years at the books and the lectures, the exams and tests and mock-up scenarios, be the doctor everyone else imagines you to be after having watched a few too many episodes of Casualty. That’s a pretty cool part of the job, if I’m honest. It’s nice to feel valuable, like the 5-year training was worthwhile and not just a glamourised secretarial work experience placement.

Perhaps once a year, perhaps less, you intervene and somebody survives as a result. That is the best part of my job. That makes any amount of lecturing, exams or ePortfolio bullshit worth it, because just for a moment you get to stand defiant against death and you get to win.


Night number three! At last, the final shift out of the 40-odd hours of nocturnal goings-on of the last three days. Sadly, I am now fully nocturnal; it’s 0326 and I just finished my lunch. This awakeness has put me in a fantastic mood all shift, even when dealing with the abusive drug-seeking girl whose various attempts to acquire IV morphine eventually resulted in the intervention of security (the hospital has teeth, even if you don’t usually see them).

And come later today I have to throw all that wonderful nocturnal awesomeness away and go back to half-awake mode for another two days. Win some, lose some. For now, I’m just going to sit up here, laptop in hand, rocking out to 6Music’s top 100 tracks of the last decade,  waiting for the bleep to speak. Daybreak isn’t far away, and I’ll be marching off into the sunrise.

toodles, nights. It’s been fun.

the very picture of freedom


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