Napping While Standing Up

The frightening new social epidemic

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplashnurs

I looked over the operating room table as we waited. Everyone had broken scrub except the tech.

A sitting stool was up against the wall for the attending and he sat with his back against it, head tilted back, eyes closed. For anyone who might pass by — he looked to be asleep.

He was flanked by his residents standing on either side of him. They were standing. Leaning against the same wall, one had her legs crossed at her ankles but otherwise, their bodies were identical. The lean, the angle of the head, the slightly slackened jawline, and the closed eyes.

The anesthesia dude and I listened quietly to the music pouring out of the speakers. Jingle Bell Rock…again. It was official. I fucking hated this song.

The scrub was standing next to the patient, it was his job to guard the sterile field until everyone scrubbed back in and we continued on with the surgery. He was awake. Singing along to the music. I knew there was no one to replace him at this hour of the night or I might have considered serious bodily harm to him by the second chorus.

We were gathered together in OR 4 waiting on the arrival of a liver. Whenever I did these surgeries I was never sure of where the slightly used organ might be coming from, I only knew it would come. This time we started early because for this patient it was round two on the transplant carousel and getting the first scarred-in transplanted liver out from their previous transplant years ago was going to be a job. A very tedious, messy job.

But the team had done it. They had gotten to the place where everything was set to execute the removal of the liver once the slightly used one came through those operating room doors. However, the plane carrying it hadn’t landed yet — we were ahead of schedule — in the middle of the night — a few days before Christmas — listening to bad Christmas carols.

So the surgeons rested. They could not leave the OR to go lay down in a call room, but they still had hours of surgery ahead of them to complete the transplant. So they made do.

I’m certain napping while standing up is an actual course they teach in medical school. I have seen doctors in the ICU do it; I have seen surgeons in the OR do it.

It is a fine art of physics, combined with the principles of yin/yang which hold the body upright but relaxed. The head often is tipped forward but can also be extended back — I believe this might be personal preference. Hands can be cupped together in front of you or arms can be folded neatly over your chest. Leg positions can be single or dual legged stances.

For those few minutes of the ultimate power nap they grab — it makes all the difference in the superhuman stamina they are able to muster going forward to operate for hours or work in trauma situations. And come back for more to dig deep and keep giving to care for the patients who need them.

I have never seen any other group of people master this skill to the level of physicians. While it may never be the “frightening new social epidemic” White Feather envisioned when he threw this title out there for us to ponder — it is SOP in the healthcare profession.

And mastered by the best physicians I have ever worked with in the trenches of the really scary shit.

Thank you White Feather for the opportunity to honor the men and women I have worked with over the years who gave so much of themselves to save the lives of others. May there always be such physicians who care this deeply about The Needs of their patients.


Full Credit to White Feather for the title of this post. Used with permission.

Self discovery in progress, stay tuned

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