Long Call, Long Haul (part 2)

A three-part series profiling life on the wards… and what you can do about it!

Part 2:  What’s your health-type?

I am labeled, fairly I guess, by many in my intern class as a “health nut.” I bring breakfast – whole grain cereal with almonds in a little plastic bag – and lunch – an avocado sandwich, yoghurt, and a nibble of dark chocolate – from home every day. I won’t touch the cafeteria food or the greasy Chinese served at mid-day report. I live far from the hospital and close to my yoga studio, a deliberate choice, which means a 25-30 minute subway ride downtown rather than a walk across the street to my apartment. I’m vegetarian. I hosted a talk on Ayurvedic medicine for the housestaff. I’m going into integrative medicine. If I am a health nut, it’s not accidental.

Then there’s my co-intern Jim. The other night at about 1am on night float Jim asked me good-naturedly what the hell integrative medicine is. So, between answering pages, I got Jim to fill out an Ayurvedic questionnaire to determine his Dosha (“constitution”) and explained to him a bit about what that meant. Jim, who turned out to be predominantly a fiery Pitta (a constitutional type, along with Vata and Kapha), is going into critical care medicine (fitting!). He is awesome at putting in IVs and practically runs codes as an intern, putting in central lines with the confidence and skill of a resident. His bravery and calm under pressure impress me every time I work with him.

Jim mentioned he doesn’t eat healthily, generally speaking, but especially tanks when on night float, when his intake consists of take-out Thai or Chinese or a huge sub sandwich for dinner, wee-hour potato chips and Insomnia Cookies (the cookie delivery place on the Upper East Side that apparently was invented to fuel the needs of two specific populations – stoners and residents) for snacks, and pastries or bagels for breakfast. I’d noticed, I told him, also good-naturedly. He said he and his wife, a nurse, never cook. He’s young and tall and thin and one of those people who needs at least 3000 calories a day to keep going. He couldn’t imagine how he’ do it and eat healthily working these hours.

So there you have the gamut – the reality is that what it means to stay healthy for me is different than what it means for Jim. He needs a lot of calories but he recognizes that he can’t keep going forever on the fried-food and carb-based diet that makes all our patients obese and diabetic. So in talking about his health, we talked about food, a reasonably accessible starting place; we talked about cooking something easy – pasta with olive oil and stir-fried veggies, a simple green salad, and baked fish (simply prepared with lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil, delicious and fast) – maybe twice a week. Jim seemed reluctant but he said a seed was planted.

If your patterns are more like Jim’s, you don’t have to feel pressure to “get healthy” all at once. But if you can cut out some extraneous toxicity as an intern (the job, itself, comes with a boatload of stress far beyond just the long hours), you are doing your body a huge favor.

Stay tuned for Part 3, which features tips on how you can stay healthy for YOUR health-type!


About the author

Robin Friedlander, MD, graduated from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2011 and is currently an intern in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Robin has been a certified yoga instructor for 6 years and is a proponent of integrative medicine, having recently begun studying Ayurveda with an eye towards incorporating it into her future practice. She also writes about health and wellness, and is a regular contributor to various blogs including MindBodyGreen.com. Follow her on Twitter @robinef.

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