Thursday, January 08, 2009
The Doctors' Lounge
As the kid of an MD I spent quite a lot of time - on Sundays, mostly - hanging out in hospitals. I used to sit and draw at the nurses' station as Dad rounded on patients. I recall meeting a pathologist who showed me some sort of chemical trick invoving phenolphthalein, which turned a colorless solution bright pink [or perhaps vice versa] - and then, for a finale, he drank it. (I am not making this up, I swear, and I know it involved phenolphthalein, but I don't recall the exact details. Any chemists out there want to help me out?) And I ate more Sunday dinners than I care to contemplate at the hospital cafeteria. This may be the source of my affection for greasy-spoon food: Anything is a step up after that.
But the Doctors' Lounge was Terra Incognita. We only went there with Dad. He had to be there to give us the entree. Never mind that on Sunday afternoons there was usually only a solitary surgeon or anesthesiologist there watching sports on TV: to get in we had to be with Dad. It was a manly sort of place (this was the mid-1970's we're talking about) and only Real Doctors hung out there.
I can still see the Lounge with its walnut paneled television in the corner, harvest gold upholstered couches and relentlessly bright, upbeat recessed ceiling lighting as though it were yesterday. That Lounge and the hospital that contained it no longer exists; it was torn down years ago (they built Assisted Living housing for seniors there in its place), but no matter. Every Doctors' Lounge I have ever been in was spiritually, if not physically, the same.
Recently I've been thinking a lot about Doctors' Lounges because I've been spending a lot of time in them - specifically in the Lounge of Tertiary Medical Care Center. This is because I spend many Thursday mornings there for meetings. (If you are on staff at a hospital you immediately get hit up to serve on one or more committees. This is not absolutely mandatory, but only in the technical sense, so you might as well say yes. Being efficient, I chose only committees that meet on Thursdays - my day out of the office.)
At any rate, Tertiary MCC has a pretty good Doctors' Lounge as these things go. It has windows, it has two televisions (and two computers), it has its own bathrooms, and it has free bagels and coffee (and bagel schmears) on weekday mornings. These may sound like minor details but trust me, they are not. If you have to drag yourself to the hospital at crack of dawn it will mean a lot to you to have coffee and something to eat when you get there. Likewise, if you have to spend weekends/holidays/Super Bowls at your workplace you will thank God to have a clean, well-lighted place for television there.
I don't have air conditioning in my house, but TMCC does. In the summers that's important too. Therefore I have developed the habit of going to where I know I can get a decent bagel and cup of coffee, hang out, read the paper, schmooze and get work done - in short, the DL. The TMCC's computer system links to the Firm's electronic medical record system, so I can check labs and make phone calls while I'm waiting for my meetings to start. My efficiency increases exponentially while I'm there since you can't blog or surf the Net with some rabid intern breathing down your neck waiting to use the computer.
In the Doctors' Lounge the television is always on and is always showing either news or sports. Female MDs are welcome, but you don't seem to see that many of them (except for the house staff) - decades after my initial exposure to it the DL is still mostly a manly place... perhaps the women have better things to do? There's always at least one retired MD reading the paper, arguing politics with somebody or watching TV. In our lounge there is one extremely elderly fellow who always seems to be there, and he gets there early: I arrived just before seven a.m. today and he showed up about fifteen minutes later. Interestingly, he seems to have no sense of time as he spent the 45 minutes or so before my meeting making social calls on the phone. (I heard "Oh, did I wake you up?" twice as I was checking labs and eating my bagel.)
He is also hard of hearing. A friend of his came over and initiated the following conversation:
"Did you get your juice today?" (repeated three times)
My elderly friend finally registered the inquiry, blinked and answered: "You'll have to come over here. I can't hear you."
Question repeated, he answered triumphantly: "Yes! I got my juice already!"
Such is life in the Doctors' Lounge.
Oops, he just wandered back in - gotta go before he reads this!