Dr. Krebs and another physician work 12-hour shifts beginning at 6 p.m. three times a week. For Dr. Krebs it’s Sunday through Tuesday nights. When his shift ends Wednesday morning, he drives the 125 miles from San Diego to his apartment in Los Angeles, catches some sleep, then assumes the role of Hollywood actor.
From Wednesday through Saturday, you might find him auditioning, taking acting classes, filming on location, doing the behind-the-scenes business of an aspiring actor, or attending a Hollywood party to network. On Sunday afternoon, he returns to the hospital in San Diego to begin another round of night shifts.
“Sometimes I can put in a 31-hour day if I have an audition in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon after my shift in San Diego Tuesday night,” he says. “Then I’ll be running on adrenaline, but it’s worth it.”
Balanced from the Beginning
A Southern California native, Dr. Krebs grew up near Disneyland, where he played clarinet during the bicentennial parade there in 1976. He knew he wanted to be a doctor when he was 7 years old. His grandfather was an optometrist, and Dr. Krebs spent many of his school holidays talking happily to his grandfather’s office patients.
Dr. Krebs graduated with honors from the University of California at Davis and received a medical degree from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. He has been honored by Kaiser Permanente Medical Group with its Distinguished Service Award, its Everyday Hero Award, and its Primary Care Leadership Recognition Award.
Dr. Krebs says being a physician and an actor creates the perfect balance between his right and left brains: “The analytical side of my brain is satisfied by medicine, and my creative side is satisfied by being able to immerse myself in acting on my days off. It’s a perfect balance for me.”
Patients benefit from this balance, Dr. Krebs believes, because he brings to his job the increased empathy he’s developed as an actor. “My acting has absolutely enhanced my relationships with patients,” he says. “Acting requires developing intense listening skills. I’ve become a much better listener. Acting also requires you to focus on what the other person is saying, and that has helped me really focus on what patients tell me.”
Conversely, being a physician has helped him with his acting.
“Physicians are trained observers. Medicine has helped me become a better observer of people’s mannerisms and what they say about their character,” he explains. “And that training in observation makes me better able to relate to other actors.”
Two different careers also fulfill two different aspects of his personality.
“I’m a bit of a ham, although I don’t ham it up in my acting,” admits Dr. Krebs. “I like being noticed. In acting, it’s all about me, so I’m on the receiving end. But when I’m a physician, it’s never about me; it’s about the patient. So I’m the giver. I like that because it balances my life.”
Dr. Krebs isn’t the only one satisfied with his nocturnist position. It’s also “a win, win, win situation for the hospital,” says Ted Geer, MD, chief of internal medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center.
“Administratively it’s great because there aren’t as many shifts that have to be covered by other physicians,” Dr. Geer explains. “It’s win-win for patients and the emergency room because we have more physicians who are up all night to help.”
While many hospitalists use their off hours to pursue hobbies, it’s unusual for them to have another profession. “It’s a credit to him that he’s able to have a second career,” says Dr. Geer.