Confessions of a would-be nocturnist

February 19, 2015

“Hope it’s not too busy.”

I smile and kiss my well-meaning husband goodbye, the man who has just cursed my night.

In fact, I was swamped all night. It was the equivalent of the “Q word.” First rule of the emergency department: never talk about how “quiet” it is. We all know too well Newton’s law of the ED: for every moment of calm, there is an equal and opposite hellfire of activity. Straight out of Field of Dreams, if you acknowledge it, they will come.

I have been working nights for one year now, full time. To be fair, it was at my own suggestion, borne from a need to stabilize my schedule with a nursing baby at home and two more kids in school. If I work nights, I reasoned, I can set my schedule, make dinner, go to school functions, have regular date nights with my husband, and see my children every single day! In short, I can do it all! Never mind one small but critical detail — I have to stay up all night to do so.

I have a confession: working nights has made me a little crazy.

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The Red Circle: Sex and Gender Make Center Stage

February 12, 2015

“Male cells?”

I stood on that red circle at a recent TEDx Providence event Sex Matters in a Medical Emergency and noticed the faces in the audience transform into looks of shock and wonder. They truly did not realize that medicine, science and research have been based upon the male model. That human research subjects are men, animal research is performed using male mice, and even molecular studies are conducted on male cell lines. One hundred years of insight and knowledge gained by experimenting on men has been applied to both men and women.

In fact, the assumption was that if you set aside obvious differences in reproductive systems, men and women were nearly identical. As a result of this, women’s health began to be defined by breast and gynecological health. This “Bikini Medicine” view seemed status quo until the past decade as more and more questions kept being raised. Why are so many FDA approved medications withdrawn from the market due to unacceptable side effects on women and not men? Why are women more likely than men to develop unusual fatigue and shortness of breath when having a heart attack? The lack of data on women perpetuated the convenient principle that men and women were the same. An informational vortex of mounting evidence that ultimately led us astray.

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