SAN ANTONIO - The sound of a wailing siren on the street outside would signal trouble to many people.
But inside The Emergency Clinic at the Pearl late one recent night, staff members maintained their calm.
“It's the night shift. All the weird stuff happens at night,” said Dr. Christina Lumbreras.
After a year as the physician on duty at the clinic during the graveyard shift, Lumbreras isn’t fazed by much that she sees coming through the clinic’s doors.
She and her overnight staff, which includes two registered nurses, an X-ray technician and medical assistant, have seen it all.
“People have the same complaints as during the day but sometimes they'll come in sicker because they've waited all day,” she said, explaining how things like daytime chest pain can become a full-blown emergency during the late-night hours.
In a typical shift, which begins at 7 p.m. and ends at 7 a.m., she may see patients with problems that run the gamut.
On this day, she had to bandage up a homeless man who had gotten into a scuffle on the street, then stitch up a deep gash on a woman’s heel.
The clinic, though, is a full-service emergency room equipped to do everything from X-rays to CT scans and ultrasound to blood analysis.
At times, the staff has to do all of the above in a single shift.
“Some days you think you're going to have it easy and that's when you get slammed,” Lumbreras said. “Injuries or illnesses don't stop when the sun sets and so that's why we're here.”
Working the odd hours of the overnight shift, alone, can bring challenges.
Lumbreras juggles that with her family life, as a wife and mother of a six-year-old.
“The key point is just communicating with your family,” she said. “You have to really let them know that, 'Hey, I have to be asleep during the day so I'm not exhausted or fatigued for my night shift."
She and her staff regularly stay up all night to make sure others are able to rest a little more easy.
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