5:00AM - She hears an alarm nearby and groans, knowing that the day is about to start whether she's ready or not. Nora debates hitting snooze but she knows that it's just better to bite the bullet and get out of bed rather than to delay the inevitable. Groggy and bleary eyed, she treks across the cold hardwood floors of her bedroom and into the bathroom where the bright light causes her to squint. She goes about getting ready for the day and makes herself an iced coffee to go for the walk to the hospital.
5:45AM - She arrives at the hospital and takes some time to review notes from the shift before and prepare for the day ahead of her. All caught up, she joins the rest of the trauma team as the surgeon on-call from the night before briefs them before Nora leads morning rounds with the junior residents. Once they wrap up, those who have the time head to the hospital cafeteria for breakfast. Nora's is rushed, as she has an early morning surgery ahead of her but knows that she needs something to fill her stomach; her next meal might not be until later that evening at the end of her shift.
7:03AM - Pre-op scrub. Protocol varies between hospitals, but Nora has found that she's safe at the various institutions that she rotates through if she spends five minutes scrubbing in prior to surgery. Each team member has their own rituals before surgery, and Nora is no different. She listens to "Wrap Your Trouble in Dreams" by The Velvet Underground and Nico in his head before each surgery, and at five minutes and ten seconds long, she knows she'll be good to go by the end of it. "The gleaming knife cuts early through the midnight air," Nico sings in her head. She peers through the glass in front of the sinks and watches as the anesthesiologist preps and sedates her patient. This is anything but routine for her today; today, she'll be working alongside one of the orthopedic surgeons rather than the trauma and general surgeons who she usually learns from. This is this patient's second surgery in four days.
1:02PM - One surgery down and one more to go. It's not too often that she's able to take a real lunch break, and she enjoys this one as much as she can, joking around with the other fellows and residents and trying to talk about anything but shop, though it's inevitable that the conversation returns to work in a matter of minutes. It isn't long before her pager goes off and she learns that another consult needs her attention this afternoon following a bad pile-up on I-90.
6:15PM - Both of today's surgeries have gone about as smoothly as they could have anticipated, and the patients seem to be recovering well. She has a short reprieve before she has to begin handing off patients to the surgeon on call for the night. Afterwards, she heads straight towards the locker room and peels off her scrubs, eager to get home and shower off the day's work.
7:35PM - A friend stops by her apartment armed with dinner and beer. She feels lucky to have friends who tolerate her work schedule and tendency to disappear for days, if not weeks, at a time, though she knows that this good fortune can only last for so long and she hopes that their patience doesn't run out anytime soon.
11:06PM - She's exhausted, but her mind is still going a mile a minute. This happens on most nights, and she sighs knowing that tonight won't be much different. She forces herself not to look at her phone; counting the minutes won't help and neither will checking her email or texts or social media. Eventually, she drifts off to sleep, only to have her alarm go off again, too soon.