In the world of university housing, nothing makes your heart beat faster (in a terrifying, serial killer is out to get you way) than the ring of the duty phone. Duty phone, on-call phone, portal to hell, whatever you call it. If anyone has figured out how to take this duty time and make it a meaningful, positive experience rather than a week long panic attack I welcome your insight. Oh, think of the lives you will touch and the help you will give! Here is your chance to put all the student development theory into practice! Free rent!
I’m not sure when the duty phone became such a ball and chain, but it has. Years of middle of the night phone calls and 3:00a.m. trips to the emergency department – I think I understand why I have what the sleep doctor calls “sleep maintenance insomnia”. In any case, no matter how few weeks I am on call a semester these days, I get really cranky the weekend before just thinking about how often I’m going to answer that phone and hear “we have a student going to the hospital…” And all week, I’m in survival nap mode just in case. In addition to the rolling bag full of a million pieces of crisis management tools and paperwork, I’ve got my own backpack for the hospital with a pared down version of things I can actually find. And snacks.
I swear when I first got this gig, students ending up at the hospital were few and far between. Now it’s at least one a week, more like two or three in reality. Extra bonus points if you are already sitting in the E.D. with one student when another rolls in by ambulance. Which might be okay if you could just swap your work hours for that week to be third shift, but nope. You still have those meetings and assignments and judicials to take care of like nothing happened. Oh sure, people sympathize, but that doesn’t make the workload disappear. I’m always temped to take Mon-Fri as sick days those weeks, and just tool around the house watching Netflix all day for mental health purposes.
I went to the cafeteria for dinner tonight and scrutinized the crowd. Which one will it be? Who’s going to make poor choices this week? Who will post ambiguous threats of self-harm on social media? Who is going to hold out until 4am before deciding the pain they ignored all day has to be addressed right now?