Dr. Richard Shoemaker is an emergency physician from Philadelphia. Primarily working overnight shifts in the ED, Dr. Shoemaker has learned how to master the “shift world”. He maintains his fitness by training as an American Ninja Warrior and is an avid rock climber. Here’s how he stays healthy in EM!


  • Name: Richard Shoemaker, MD
  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Current job(s): Overnight Doctor at Taylor Hospital with Crozer Keystone Health Systems
  • One word that describes how you stay healthy: God
  • Primary behavior/activity for destressing: Rock Climbing

What are the top ways you keep healthy?

  1. Rock Climbing and Ninja Training
  2. Family
  3. My Christian Faith

What’s your ideal workout?

My ideal workout consists of about 2 and 1/2 hours in the climbing gym, and then finishing off with campus board training and 30 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), mixing pull ups, and Plyometrics.

Do you track your fitness? How?

I track my fitness based on my goals. When training for American Ninja Warrior, I track my fitness based on time intervals in HIIT workouts. When I am training for climbing, it is easy to track strength based on the grade I can climb.

How do you prepare for a night shift? How do you recover from one?

I work nights exclusively Monday-Thursday 11p-7a. Mondays I nap from 630p-930p, before going in to my first shift of the week. I do a medium intensity work out for 30 minutes (usually a random assortment of a “BeachBody” work out) from 8 am-830am each morning. I eat something and try to be in bed by 9 am. The work out makes sure I stay asleep all day. I will wake up at 430 or 5 pm. Friday mornings are my end of the week, so I will stay up all day, usually climb for at least 3 hours, and crash at 7 pm. I typically sleep for 12-13 hours, so that come Saturday morning my clock is reset for the weekend.

How do you avoid getting “hangry” (angry due to hunger) on shift?

I snack just about every hour. My nights typically look like this, for the first 2 hours of every shift I drink coffee and snack on nuts and dried fruit. Hour 3, I eat a banana. Hour 4, I eat a granola bar. Hour 6, I eat a greek yogurt. Hour 7, I eat an apple. I also make sure I drink an entire 1 Liter Nalgene bottle of water or sports drink during my shift. My stomach is never empty, and I never leave the department to eat, I just snack.

How do you ensure you are mentally in check?

Sunday Morning worship at my church and the relationships I have there are vital for keeping my life and my mission to serve others in perspective. Regular prayer is also vital. On a very practical level, I regularly check in with my wife to ask how I’m doing. Am I over committed? Is she getting enough of my time? Are our 4 children getting enough of my time? Have I been grumpy recently? My wife helps me see what I may be blind to regarding my mental state.

What are the biggest challenges you face in maintaining a longstanding career in EM? How do you address these challenges?

I am prone to becoming jaded about the patients I serve, especially as a night shift doc. Opiate abuse, and general ED abuse seems more frequent on overnights. I deal with this in 2 ways:

  1. Making sure I have a life and relationships outside of EM and medicine in general. It is important to experience and enjoy those around you (church, family, climbing, neighborhood activities, volunteer work, etc.)
  2. Regularly reflecting and conversing with spiritual mentors about the goodness and beauty of a life of mercy and caring.

Best advice you have received for maintaining health?

Mental Health

From mentor in medical school: Medicine can be like a “Mistress.” She can seduce you for more and more of your time and energy, and will richly reward you for your efforts in money, praise, and prestige. She can seduce you away from your wife and children. Do not let it become a “Mistress!”

Physical Health

From my high school wrestling coach: Never define yourself by your sport. For example, “a wrestler”.  Consider yourself “an athlete.”  The day may come when you can no longer play the sport you love, and you don’t want to stop being active. If a wrestler can no longer wrestle, he/she may find themselves on a couch drinking too much beer. If an athlete can no longer wrestle, he/she will find some other activity to fill their time. That has proved true for me.

Who would you love for us to track down to answer these questions?

Noah Kauffman
David Wald
Serge Simpson


Zafrina Poonja, MD

Zafrina Poonja, MD

Editor, How I Stay Healthy in EM series
Emergency Medicine Resident
University of Alberta
Zafrina Poonja, MD


Emergency Medicine Physician @ Vancouver General Hospital. Assistant Editor @ALiEMteam. Lover of travel, soccer, and boat shoes.