Day in the life of
OB/GYN – Dr. Nichole Butler
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
My last group I was in had an on-call schedule that was very structured so that only those who were on call did deliveries and we were not in the office. It was great because we were a group of five OB/GYNs that were also moms so we would have seven straight days of being on-call and since there were five of us, we would have 4 weeks of having a normal schedule. That was for several years, but typically an OB/GYN generalist doesn’t have that kind of schedule. Typically you are working in the office seeing gynecology and OB patients and if somebody goes into labor and you are the person on call, then unfortunately those patients have to see your partner or get rescheduled. If it’s something that can be managed quickly where you need to go into the hospital and do a delivery or a quick assessment of the patient, then you can head back into the office and continue seeing your scheduled patients for that day. I’ve had to do that many times.
Obviously, our call schedule was the best because we only delivered babies. That way the people in the office never had to deal with any of those interruptions because there was one designated person to deliver all day, everyday for seven days. So you would never get called out of the office. It was great for the patients as well because the patients didn’t have to be rescheduled unless there was an emergency and the partner in the office had to leave to go help the other one.
For the most part, the one doctor handled everything and it allowed for a more cohesive office because that’s a really huge issue when you go to an OB/GYN office understanding that the doctor may have to leave. If you’re at a busy practice, then the chances are higher of the doctor having to leave. The way we worked it, we never had to leave the office. Of course if you were the designated on-call doctor that week, it would be difficult at times since you’re delivering all day every day. Although at times it was hectic, there were those days that no one was in labor/delivering and gave you a bit of a break where all you would have to do is rounds. It balanced out pretty well.
Has there ever been a day that you’ve had multiple deliveries?
In previous positions, I was a part of a very large and busy practice. Since it was always busy, I have delivered lots and lots of babies. I remember a day where I delivered five babies in a row. They were all in rooms right next to each other so I would just go from room to room, to room, to room.
A day like that was successful because of our nurses on staff. I believe it’s your nurses who make the OB life possible. If you don’t have a good relationship with your labor and delivery nurses, your life is going to be difficult. I would say to make friends with your nurses as they are the ones that are managing the patients, keeping you up to date, making you aware this patient has an hour until delivery and things like that. They make us look good, but it’s all nursing. I would give 90% of the credit for a successful labor and delivery to the nurses that work with me. I’ve worked with incredible nurses.
What are the pros and cons of your job as an OB GYN?
To me, one of the main pros is that generally, it is a happy field of medicine. Although, I will note that the highs are very high and the lows are so low.
For example, you can deliver a baby but lose a mother. That’s a low that you don’t get over. If a baby passes away, that’s low. That being said, it is a very happy field of medicine and your patients are generally healthy. I found it to be a very rewarding job because you could have a patient first coming in just for pap smears. As the years go on, you’ll get to treat that same patient when she’s getting married, then through her pregnancy and then you’ll deliver that baby. That whole cycle is really great. I have so many patients that I’ve watched go through these life moments and it’s so special.
Another low is missing time with your family. Unless you are lucky enough to be in a group that is sensitive to the fact that you’re a mom and they care about those types of things. I happened to be with a group that was very wonderful. For example, I remember one year my kids really wanted me to be at this Halloween parade and I was scrambling to ask if someone could cover for me. My team, primarily being moms themselves, understood that these “little” events are so big for your kids and were able to cover my schedule so I could attend the parade.
As a mom and an OB/GYN, you realize your own kids don’t care that you’re delivering someone else’s baby. They want you there for their life events. Sometimes you will miss a lot being an OB. Another low is that you are tired a lot. Sleep is not your friend. Personally, I don’t need a lot of sleep to take a normal day on and it didn’t really bother me as much until I got older.
One of the other highs and a part of the job I have loved is getting to do surgeries while also being able to take care of patients in the office. It really allows me to do a lot of things and has always kept me from getting bored.
I believe that one of the greatest highs is the opportunity to take care of women who don’t take care of themselves. Women are notorious for putting everybody in front of them. While they’re taking care of everyone else, I’m the person taking care of them. I love working with women. I really do. It’s been a great honor for me to care for women who are the nurturers in their own family. As an OB/GYN, I love seeing firsthand how my office is a safe space where women can talk to me about anything because pregnancy is not always fun.
Most of my time is spent talking to women since a typical appointment visit is that, talking. Patient examinations are relatively quick. If you are not a person that wants to talk to people all day every day and is okay with having people unload a lot on you, then this is not the job for you.
Women come in and they need a safe space. To those considering a career in obstetrics and gynecology, understand that you may miss different events or things in life and that’s okay.
I believe that many people forget that physicians are here to serve. This idea gets lost when you’re young and considering a career in medicine. We’re here to serve. As a physician, you will be who patients come to and trust you to figure out what’s going on in ultimately deciding how to best serve them.
Everytime I see a baby being delivered it’s so affirming to me. To me, it feels like I’m seeing God’s hand everytime and I say that after delivering babies for over 26 years. But it’s every single time.
You may have some very scary moments, especially where a mom or a baby comes close to dying during a delivery. I’ve asked myself on more than one occasion throughout my career, “why do I do this job?” Typically, I ask that after a particularly hard delivery. Ultimately, it is an extremely rewarding career.
What do OBGYNs major in?
As long as you make sure to take all of the required classes to qualify for the MCAT, you could major in a variety of different areas. For example, I was a Communications major and minored in Allied Health.
Can you share some advice with our readers who would like to become an OBGYN, what should they think about before becoming one?
First, I think it’s important to start with what not to think about. A lot of people are deterred from a career in medicine because they think the path to becoming a doctor takes too much time. Many young people have blamed not pursuing medicine because they look at the four years of college, then four years of medical school, then residency, but that time goes by so fast.
I try to remind students that even though your friends graduated from college with bachelors and then started an entry level position, it’s still an entry level. As a medical student in school, you’re basically doing the same thing. I don’t want people to get deterred by the length of time. This is the number one thing that people tell me, ‘oh my God, it’s so much time!’ My response to that is well, what else are you going to be doing at 21?
After four years of medical school, you’ll start your residency. Most people don’t realize that you are getting paid during residency. It’s not a huge salary, but you’re still getting paid. It’s just like working at any other entry level job, which most people are doing at that age.
Secondly, I would remind students that becoming an OB/GYN takes a lot of hard work. It’s not necessarily so hard where the work is impossible, but the amount of time and effort you’re going to have to put into it is substantial.
For one, there’s a lot of studying at first. Once the actual school work is done and you are working with real patients, you will have to spend a lot of time in the hospital. So be prepared to work hard. This is not a job to go into for someone that’s not interested in working hard. That being said, it’s still absolutely doable.
Thirdly, pursuing a career in medicine is not for the faint of heart. What I mean by this is to understand that from medical school to residency, you’re getting prepared to take care of people and their lives are going to be in your hands. So your teachers are going to be tough. They’re not mean people, but they are tough. You’re going to need some thick skin because those teachers/professors are preparing you to take care of people and their lives. Which is why they remind you throughout how you can’t really afford to mess up. It’s tough but doable and you would want tough teachers because they only want to prepare you. I remind students that they need to be able to handle criticism or correction because there’s a lot of that going on so be prepared for it and don’t take it personally. You must understand that you are being trained to take care of people and everyone takes it very seriously.
Dr. Nichole Butler
Board-certified OB/GYN, FACOG
Weiss Memorial Hospital – Women’s Health Center
provide medical care related to pregnancy or childbirth and those who diagnose, treat, and help prevent diseases of women, particularly those affecting the reproductive system. May also provide general medical care to women.