To describe the experiences of psychiatric senior house officers (SHOs) of being on call. A survey of SHOs on three on-call rotas across south Birmingham was conducted to investigate their opinions about on-call work and to consider how time on call is spent.
SHOs in psychiatry gain a broad range of experience out of hours on a traditional on-call rota. On-call periods were valued as a learning experience and 63% of SHOs were confident in their decision-making while on call. However, on-call work was often viewed as isolating, and not all SHOs felt that they were working as part of a team when on call.
As changes to working patterns are introduced, for example in order to implement the European Working Time Directive, care must be taken to retain the positive aspects of current on-call systems. Such changes should be seen as an opportunity to improve working lives so that SHOs feel less isolated when providing out-of-hours cover.