Not the graveyard shift
When internist Terance Millan agreed to work the night shift at North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville in 1997, he thought it would be only temporary. “But here I am 14 years later,” said Millan, 51. Working nights enabled him to spend time caring for his children, now 20 and 22, and offered flexibility that his wife, also a doctor, needed.
Millan is one of three staff nocturnists; each works 15 days per month from 4 p.m. to midnight or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. He said he likes the autonomy, the esprit among the night staff and the fact that “when I’m off, I’m off.”
Nights were slow at the beginning, but that has changed dramatically. “We’re very busy,” said Millan, who sometimes admits 22 patients during his shift, many of whom are very sick.
Hopkins’s Washburn, 47, said her workload has escalated since 2006, when she began working part time. Her schedule — every Friday from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. and the same shift every other Saturday — has given her the flexibility to home-school her three children. She has trained herself to fall asleep when she gets home, relying on earplugs, a darkened room and her family’s cooperation.
Working nights, Washburn said, “is not difficult for me. I think some people can tolerate it. There are fewer interrruptions and distractions at night.” Although she does not officially supervise residents, they consult her about patients and she evaluates ICU admissions and confers with nurses and other staff when problems arise.
Gruman says that as both a patient and an advocate, she regards the use of nocturnists as “long overdue. The need for night coverage has always been there,” she said. “It’s so hard for me to believe that it’s taken this long.”
Watch a video of a nocturnist — a doctor specializing in the hospital night shift — as he makes his rounds
This story was produced through a collaboration between The Post and Kaiser Health News. KHN is a news service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.