PHOENIX, AZ—Many hospitalist programs around the country follow a 7-on/7-off model where clinicians work long hours for 7 consecutive days followed by a full week off. One hospitalist program, however, has taken it a step—okay, many steps—further by offering a 7-years-on/7-years-off schedule.
Hospitalists at Phoenix General Hospital work every single day for 7 years straight followed by a 7-year-long vacation. Joe Merkel is one such hospitalist; he worked non-stop from 2010-2016 and is now in year 3 of his vacation. He recently sat down with GomerBlog to share his experience with this highly unusual program.
“It’s definitely unique, and I was hesitant to join the program at first, but the allure of a 7-year break was too much to walk away from,” Merkel said. “Those first 7 years were pretty insane though. When I began my shift, my daughter was 2 years old. Next time I saw her, she was 9, and my wife had 2 more kids with her new husband. I didn’t even know she had divorced me.”
Yes, that’s correct, the 7-year-on part of the schedule is one marathon shift. The clinicians are true hospitalists in that they do not leave the hospital for 7 years. Sounds like you have to be nuts to join such a program, but it’s totally worth it once you start your 7-year break, right?
“Not exactly,” explained Merkel. “At the end of the 7-year shift, your body basically shuts down. You spend the first 2 years of your break in a coma. I actually just woke up a few months ago. From what I hear, the middle 3 years are fine. But once year 6 begins, the overwhelming dread of the approaching 7-year-on shift begins to consume you. Plus, you quickly realize that every guideline you followed six years prior is obsolete, and so you have to read the entire latest edition of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine to catch up. Then you spend the whole 7th year catching up on 7-year-old discharge summary dictations that you never did.”
So, would you consider a 7-year-on/7-year-off program? Leave a comment below, and then return next week when we delve into a hospitalist program in Reno, NV that follows a model of the opposite extreme: 7-seconds-on/7-seconds off. In the time that it’s taken you to read this article, those clinicians have already changed shifts about 10 times.