Dr Aaron Bloch and Dr Ben Smith vividly remember how daunting it was being an intern during night shift. With staffing levels lower overnight, there are many sick patients and it’s not always clear who is on hand for support if required.
‘It can be an intimidating and lonely time. You can go through a week of nights and barely even see another person,’ Dr Smith says.
During their time in the Junior Doctors in Redesign program, the two thought there had to be a logical solution to this problem so at a coffee shop at 5:30am feverishly tapped out an email to senior staff.
‘You can be run off your feet, while one of the other interns may have nothing to do. They might be sleeping while you’re having the absolute worst night of your life. We thought why not get everyone together at the start of the night, so that junior doctors can feel supported,’ Dr Bloch says. What started from such small beginnings has now become a routine part of staff support, and thereby patient care.
Each night for the past two years, all rostered medical staff met for the Night HUG (Handover Update Group). This meeting is a chance for junior doctors working in the wee small hours to meet the most experienced doctors working that night – the ones they’ll need to call on if there’s a problem.
Junior doctor Louise Kostos has been on night shift for three of the past six weeks and benefits from the Night HUG each night.
‘It’s an opportunity to flag unwell patients and discuss their cases with the registrars, so that if something does go wrong and there is a MET call, the registrars are already familiar with the patient and they are able to target and initiate management, rather than waste time looking through the patient file,’ Dr Kostos says.
‘As a junior doctor, particularly for the new interns, it can be intimidating to call a registrar you don’t know to ask for help, so being able to put a face to the name and know who is available to call each night is a huge benefit.’
The initiative has had great support from senior medical staff, including A/Prof Wilma Beswick and A/Prof Andrew MacIsaac.
‘When we took it to A/Prof MacIsaac he said ‘that’s a great idea, the important thing is that it has a catchy name. Let’s call it the Night Hug!’ We then spent most of our meeting with A/Prof Beswick deciding what HUG would be an acronym for, and the Night Handover Update Group was born,’ Dr Bloch says.
‘The HUG is what it’s become, everyone loves the HUG and it is an initiative that costs nothing, is entirely self-sustaining and works.’