Residency Life: 12 Call Bag Essentials

Call Bag

Imagine being sleep deprived for 20+ hours and still expected to think and make important decisions as per usual. For residents like myself, that is what it means to be “on call”. I am certain that for most residents, being on call is one of the things we enjoy least about our job, but it comes with being called to serve.

Although we may be in the hospital and away from our homes for an extended period of time, each resident typically has some essentials that makes being on call much more comfortable and bearable. Here are a few of my call bag essentials that get me through 28-hour call and make me feel a little more at home.

DISCLAIMER: My pager, stethoscope, pen light, extra pens and Pocket Medicine/Harriet Lane (I am Med/Peds. WHOOP!) are always with me on the inpatient wards. Whether on call or not. These are regular, daily essentials. And yes, I do carry a pretty large bag. Thanks for asking. ūüôā¬†

Must Haves: 

  1. Jacket ¬†–¬†As a general rule hospitals are cold and at night they turn all the thermostats down to “Antartica”.
    John Snow gif
  2. Food¬†– I typically like to bring my own food and tea (I don’t drink coffee) because the hospital cafeteria doesn’t always have the healthiest food choices. Especially at 1AM when hunger strikes. Also, no one wants to page a “hangry” resident.
    Nicki Minaj Hungry gif
  3. Toiletries –¬†Freshening up in the morning after a long night of admissions helps keep my mood upbeat. I usually keep a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, makeup wipes, deodorant and lotion in my bag. Hygiene is super important and should not be abandoned just because you’re stuck in the hospital for over 24 hours.Clean teeth gif
  4. Contact Lenses/Glasses –¬†I need to be able to see patients.
    Beyonce glasses gif
  5. Ponytail Holders/Hair clips –¬†You can never have too many ponytail holders. There is nothing more frustrating than when you are all gowned up, sweating profusely over the sterile field, about to insert the needle for a lumbar puncture or place a central line and your hair falls right over your eyes. Ugh.
    Adele hair blowing gif
  6. Medications (i.e Tylenol/Motrin, prescription medications)¬†–¬†Headaches can happen any time, especially when on call and sleep deprived. Also, as doctors we counsel our patients on the importance of medication compliance all the time. Call shouldn’t be an excuse to miss important prescription medications.
    migraine gif
  7. Study Materials – I¬†like to use my down time (if any lol) to read up on diagnoses my patients currently have or to just study in general. As residents, our time is limited and studying while in the hospital has proved most effective for me, especially when it’s about a patient I am actively managing.
    homer simpson studying gif
  8. Code Card РAs a resident on call, I hold a Code pager and I am responsible for attending and, if needed, leading any codes that may happen. Sometimes it can be overwhelming with so many staff members responding and patient family members at the bedside. Having my handy dandy ACLS and PALS pocket cards to refer to always keeps me on track and prepared in these hypersensitive situations.
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  9. iPad/Laptop –¬†Once again, any time downtime is precious. I like to do online board review questions.
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  10. Extra Scrubs – Let’s say you go down to the ED to see your next admit. It’s an adult patient admitted for alcohol intoxication or a pediatric patient admitted with acute gastroenteritis. As soon as you begin to collect the history your patient throws up on you. Or, less unpleasant, you spill your 2AM milkshake down the front of your scrubs. I mean you just never know. I am yet to have a situation where I needed to change scrubs overnight, but if I ever do I am prepared!
    spilled drink gif
  11. Phone charger, power bank/battery pack –¬†Because I go nowhere without my phone. Period.
    selena gomez excited scrolling through phone gif
  12. Money –¬†For the miscellaneous things that you forgot at home and you realize that you really, REALLY need from the Gift Shop downstairs. Also, did you know there are delivery services that will deliver items from stores like CVS/Walgreens to you? Yep. Thank me later.
    Dave Chapelle money gif

Honorable Mentions: 

I personally do not bring these items with me, but I know other residents that do. Again, it’s all about what makes you most comfortable to get you through your call.¬†

  • Blanket/pillow¬†– I¬†am typically ok with the hospital pillows and blankets as long as they have just been freshly laundered, but I do know some people are particular and prefer their own from home. Whatever keeps you comfy I say go with it!

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  • Portable Heater¬†– Please¬†just refer to number 1 lol.

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I know this list is not all encompassing, but in general I find these items essential to getting through my overnight calls. What do you carry in your bag? Comment below!

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