Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    This is one of the funniest things that's ever happened to me, from back in the dim mists of time when I was a resident.

    One of the teaching attendings at my hospital had a significant interest in a nursing home in the city (this all took place in San Francisco). In order to make this facility more attractive to potential patients and their families, he decided to offer twenty-four-hour medical coverage. This meant he had to hire slave labor (i.e., us). For reasons which I now forget, I was the resident he picked to organize this program... actually, wait, I think he paid me to get the thing off the ground. Yes, even back then I was a slut for extra work. V.'s favorite nickname for me is "Leather Girl," but we'll go into that some other time.

    Anyway. The on-call residents were housed in a room off the physical therapy department on the second floor. It was poorly organized, a large room that was partly office space and partly storage. The staff parked a spare hospital bed in a corner and that's where the on-call docs slept. Next to the bed, behind a screen, was stored a lifesize Resusci-Annie doll sitting up in a wheelchair. That's where it lived between CPR classes; you could see its feet, clad in sneakers, peeking out from under the curtain. The effect was creepy as hell, something like having Talking Tina sitting next to you all night, but we got used to it. It's hard to be scared of anything in a dark room when you're chronically sleep-deprived.

    My job was to recruit residents to the on-call program and train them. I organized one or two walk-through orientations, but after a few months I just started phoning it in - I'd have the docs call me on their first visit to Geriatric Manor and tell them what the drill was and what to expect. So now you can visualize what happened during this conversation...

    Hapless Resident: "Hi! I'm here and I'm in the call room. What's the routine here? Is there anyone I should round on?"

    ... about two minutes of boring medical chat..

    HR (in a completely different tone of voice) "Wait. What's that?"

    Me "Wait! Don't look! Don't look!"

    A hideous, high-pitched scream.

    I started laughing like a maniac.



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