Letting the REAL Doctor Stick It In

The following is a story with a moral at its end.. and a laugh or two in between.


The setting..

an inpatient unit in the Bronx, circa 2005. 

I was a resident (and hence likely disheveled, or groggy, or exhibiting some other form of outward display of exhaustion) of the internal medicine program at Albert Einstein University Medical Center/Moses Division, aka Montefiore.

The fact that the program was considered ‘malignant’ by those in my industry- mainly due to the strict nature of its training- likely strengthens the probability of my aforementioned appearance. Those of you who knew me back then can attest.

I was a third year resident, to be exact,

3rd year resident! A story that takes place back in my time of residency..

having been through the rigorous training and long-sleepless hours of days spent on the ‘inside’. It was sort of like doing time, except I didn’t actually do anything wrong, or break any law.

Nonetheless, it was a rite of passage, a ritual that had to be done. Sort of like hazing, only different in some of its finer points- with similarities in some of the torture techniques used- ensuring loyalty in one, competency in the other.

But back to my appearance, I find relevance in pointing out that both vitamin D and Vitamin Z (I refer here to the zzz’s crucial to sustaining life itself)..

Catching up on vitamin Z. Crucial!

were a common deprivation in my days as resident, and which, up until that point, my body had become accustomed to living without.

My team

But here I was, a third year resident physician, and in charge of my own team. The team was comprised of both interns (suffering through their first year of training- the worst) and medical students, who were still solidifying their medical knowledge base. Together, as a team, we took care of the patients on the floor.

I was the boss of the team and we all reported back to yet another doctor in charge, the revered attending. They were the ones who had been through it all- completed their mission- the color in their faces already partially restored. I knew who they were by the glow on their newly exposed skin, bright from the sun’s, having ventured outside during their (dare I say it?) down time *gasp*. They were also easily identifiable by the way in which they walked through the hospital- clicks of pride in their stride- knowing they had made it through residency intact and now were truly in charge- the so called top of the food chain.

But during those early morning hours, these attendings weren’t around. We walked through the floors, a tight group, tending to everyday minutia, checking in on patients and their necessities- and I was in charge.

On this particular day

..one of my medical students- incidentally a male- was called down to the floor where a nurse had been unable to draw a patient’s blood. He was called on to perform the phlebotomy himself- phlebotomy being the technical term for a simple blood draw.

This was standard procedure- we were called routinely to patient rooms, if the nurse was unsuccessful at ‘getting a vein,’ and it then became our responsibility to take over the poking.

Medical students followed their own patients, and were taught how to perform said procedures, but were still ‘getting the hang’ of things.

I decided to take the team down myself, after seeing fear reflected from the poor student’s eyes, as they silently pleaded with me for help at the thought of his own inexperience. He was envisioning the discomfort- both the patient’s and his own- of digging, repositioning, and again digging, deep into the patient’s arm, and it was causing him anxiety.

I would perform the phlebotomy, I announced, show them how it was properly done, and take away any possible inconvenience for the patient. I had been through it many, many times before and considered myself quite the phlebotomist by then. I was a pro *brushing away my shoulder*.

I told them this (sans shoulder brush) and the student became instantaneously ecstatic, both relieved and beaming at the thought.

The patient

Our team walked down together, where we found the patient stationed out in the hall, comfortably in her chair.

We exchanged light banter, as I introduced her to myself and the team. She had already met the medical student, clad in his short white coat (the difference in lengths differentiates an MD from a student, unbeknownst to many).

I was there to draw her blood, I announced, smiling.

She looked me up and down, thought for a second, her brows furrowed closely together in deep concentration.

“Sweetie, you’re not touching me,” followed by, “I know a medical student when I see one.”

Puzzled: my reaction when a patient didn't believe I was the doctor

Baffled, I chuckled, and explained that I indeed was not the student and that I was the resident physician, and had had much experience under my belt, and would surely get her vein. Satisfied with my response, I turned to get the supplies, when, in back, I heard her exclaim in my direction:

“Sweetie, I’m not stupid. I know who the doctor is here.”

And as I turned around, a smile crept back on my face, because I knew what she was referring to. As I imagined, I found her happily pointing to the student, who stood like a deer in headlights. She was oblivious to this, of course, or maybe just ignorantly chose to ignore it, and instead focused a self-satisfied expression directly at me, to boast in the success of her detective work.
Except her detective work had actually failed- and massively at that. But she was completely unaware.

Trying to explain

The student explained, under his breath, that he was not the doctor and that I actually was, but the woman just shook her head in disbelief. We were not about to fool her.Never Judge a Book By Its Cover. The moral to this great story of a female physician trying to make a patient's life easier..

So we did as she wished.

This is where the moral of my story comes in. It’s an oldie, but still such a goodie.

Never judge a book by its cover!

Especially if that book is me, in doctor’s coat and heels, walking away with a group of interns and medical students in tow, a grin on my face as a medical student in a short white coat behind me re-inserts his needle for the third time in a row, desperate to find a vein..

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