Experience of being resident on-call is common to all practitioners who have worked through the training grades. Other professions have their lean years while in training, for example the apprentice years in the law profession or the junior financial executive's commitment to his company, but being resident on-call in a place of work, ready to deal with any emergency for a significant fraction of one's waking and sleeping life, is peculiar to the junior grades in the medical profession. Judging by the opinions expressed by my colleagues, all registered practitioners are united in having experience of being on-call and finding it to some extent irksome. Part of the problem lies in having to do long periods of overtime for reduced rates of pay, often in delapidated surroundings when one could be more enjoyably occupied elsewhere. Most people decide that the benefits of serving the prescribed training period in the junior grades to become vocationally trained general practitioners or members of one of the Royal Colleges outweighs the short-term discomfort. In this paper I examine the experience of ‘being on-call’, working through the different aspects. I argue that the irksomeness of the experience may derive in part from the echoing of unconscious conflicts.
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