Consider me your own personal Ernie Pyle—except instead of writing to you from the frontlines of WWII it’s from the battlefront of a different war.
(Read the first installment of this warfront column here)
5th FLOOR HOSPITAL WORKROOM—May 10 2014
“Aachoo!” I can hear my resident coming down the hall before he makes it into the workroom. Only a couple years in medical school and you start to develop this keen sense for infection. You can feel it in the coat of germs when you reach up for the overhead bar on the subway, or hear it when the woman at the table next to you coughs. It prickles the back of your neck; it’s your new sixth sense—and mine is going off in my head like sirens.
My resident sinks down next to me at a computer and sniffles softly. “Ugh. I don’t need this today.” He presses his fingers against the bridge of his nose.
He looks pathetic.
I have an instinctual, “doctor” reaction. I want to tell him to go home! But I know just as well as he does that going home isn’t really an option. We’re post-call, with a service overloaded with complicated cases, an intern who capped his hour limit two hours ago (but still hasn’t signed out) and a new attending just coming on as the boss.
He can’t go home.
Doctors make the worst patients. It’s well agreed in medicine that no one wants to be the doctor’s doctor. We’re either too stubborn to ever get treated or we think we know enough about medicine to micromanage and kick back against every suggestion our doctors make.
I’m amazed that the doctor’s doctors don’t just throw up their hands and tell us: “physician, heal thyself!”.
We certainly don’t seem very receptive to help when it’s offered.