August 21, 2007
The more I see it, the more my life is morphing into an episode of Scrubs.
After spending a few years doing my training in various hospitals and health care centres, I’m starting to see a pattern emerging. There’re always a bunch of people with really colourful personalities and characters that sometimes you wonder if you’re actually unknowingly starring in some TV medical series sometime somewhere. Here’s a few that I bump into on a fairly regular basis (and sometimes more than one of them in each category too) :-
The Vanishing Big Shot.
This category usually fits the head of the department. He’s always the big fella who’s at your orientation day singing praises and extending his welcome on behalf of the hospital. Often seen enthusiastically taking questions fielded by new students and staff alike and portraying the image of the approachable boss.
The irony is, when you really have a problem, he’s nowhere to be seen. On a trouble-free day, he’d give you a big smile and go “How are you finding this rotation so far?” to which we’d nod appreciatively and comes the “Oh this rotation rocks!”. The boss would then laugh with much glee, and went on his merry way. On a screwed-up day however, he does as what his namesake describes; he vanishes.
Mind you, that this is not about the department head intentionally ‘disappears’ to avoid dealing with issues – it’s just one of those life’s unexplained phenomenon which fates his uncontactable status on the same day as you would screw up. Trust me.
The Scarily Helpful Nurse.
Man, I’ve met one of them so far and that’s scary enough. Look, it’s very good and extremely fortunate of me to know such a helpful person but this person pops up near me once too often for comfort. I know that the ward is not a huge place and we’re all gonna bump into each other but this guy purposely goes out of his way to walk up to you and enquires if everything is going fine. Honestly, I wouldn’t be that apprehensive if he didn’t have that ‘frozen’ stare which bores down on you when he talks. His expressionless face-mask belies his generous verbal offers of assistance. It’s almost like he has taken it upon himself to sheperd me through each day of my training.
Him: Oh hello there! How’s everything?
Me: Oh hello! Um so far so good I think.
Him: *gives the scary stare* Hmmm…doesn’t sound like you’re doing alright.
Me: *immediately regreting my earlier reply and mentally noted to myself to give a more affirmative answer next time round* Oh no I’m fine, serious.
Him: *unflinching* Really? Hmmm.
Me: Yah, I mean, it’s just my first week of being rostered to this ward so it’d take a bit of time to get used to. You know *nods convincingly*
Him: Is everything alright with your studies…? *turns his head to the side, something like he’s looking through a scope at you etc*
Me: Yah it is, no problem. I’m just pretty green here but in due time I’ll be fine.
Him: Hmmm…I see. I’m sure you’ll be.
Me: *grins* Yah. So, which area are you working at today? *changes the subject*
Him: Me? I’m found everywhere *smiles*
Me: Ah wow *smiles back*
Off he goes on his stuff. I’m pretty sure we both smiled for totally different reasons back there. Phew. He does this like 80% of the time which I find a little bit intimidating. As much as I appreciate the concern, one of the last things I needed would be to be quizzed and interrogated just cause I happened to be walking down the same corridor as he does. Looking at the bright side, he’s just being overwhelmingly helpful so it can’t be that bad right?
Having said all that, I find myself doing quick sneak peeks down any corridor that I’m about to walk into. Some may call it phobia, and even some could call it paranoia. I call it instinct.
The Starry-eyed Junior Medical Student
I realised that they often can be divided very roughly into 2 categories; the amazingly confident ones, and the extremely shy ones.
They’re often present during ward rounds where they’d tag along with the team consisting of a consultant, a registrar (senior doctor), an intern (newbie doctor), and a final year medical student (me!). I am usually alright with the junior’s attendance (usually I’m most happy for them to join in) until they started making me look bad.
Not too long ago was there a shining example of this. I had 2 junior students with me; one was the bold brave gung-ho type (a.k.a. Mr. Confident) while there other was the quiet and bashful kind (a.k.a. Mr. Shy). We were doing our rounds like the usual and the consultant joins in halfway throughout the process. While we were discussing each of the patient’s plan of management, the consultant was grilling everyone with questions except for the juniors. I’m all up for learning opportunities except that I realised each time when we get an answer wrong, Mr. Confident would SMILE.
It started with the consultant throwing questions at the registrar.
Consultant: What would you do if the patient develops X complications? How likely?
Registrar: *answers confidently* I would do etc etc etc..
Consultant: Well, nooooo…
Mr. Confident smiles. Pardon me, but it’s not one of those ‘polite’ smiles (well it could hardly pass for that anyway) that you’d give sympathetically when someone gives a wrong answer. His smile was akin to a deliriously delighted kid having an open-jawed smile as if someone as about to toss a candy into his mouth.
Registrar: Oh..um *thinks somemore* Then I’d do a etc etc etc
Mr. Confident’s smile just expanded by half it’s original size.
Consultant: Think about it. What does the patient have? What are you most concerned about? *turns to look at the intern*
Intern: Mmm…I first would do etc etc then check it everyday to monitor the levels etc
Consultant: Umm…that’s not what I’m getting at here.
Ah, the smile grew on Mr. Confident’s face. You know, we were all standing on one side of the patient’s bed with the consultant being on the other side of it. The juniors strategically stood by the foot of the bed, and Mr. Confident’s head rocked back and forth as the conversation ping-ponged between us and the consultant along with his increasing smile/glee/jaw problem/what not.
Same thing happened when I answered a question wrongly later during the rounds. I saw the smirk on Mr. Confident’s face (Mr. Shy however, blinked sympathetically – if there’s such a thing for lack of a better description). I spent the next 15 seconds attempting to project to him telepathically saying “Don’t laugh, it would happen to you next time”. Ah well.
I am pretty sure I didn’t smirk like that at the seniors when I was a junior medical student. I was far too busy day-dreaming during rounds.
The Indecisive Patient
Mmm…not sure if I should laugh or cry. Either way it’s worth a tale of its own.
There I was, wheeling an IV trolley towards this fella as he needs to have a drip inserted. I thought before I set up the materials I’d better go ask for his consent first. So I did.
Me: Hello there Mr. A. I’ve been told that you need a drip in you. Is it okie if I put one in?
Him: Who are you?
Me: I’m the final year med student, sir.
Him: *frowns* Can’t the doc do it?
Me: Ah he could, but they thought it’d be good practice for me. This is the only way to learn.
Him: You’re gonna be a doc right? Ah well I guess. Ok go ahead.
So I laid out the stuffs that I needed: the cannulation needle, some gauze, dressing pack, skin tape, gauze, syringe, saline, etc. I’ve already put the tourniquet on and am already swabbing the area with some antiseptic.
With the needle ready, I looked up to the patient. “Okie here goes. Expect a sharp sting”.
Suddenly patient sits up in bed. He pointed to the urine container. “I need to pee”.
Oh okie, I put down the needle and told him I’ll leave him to it and come back in a few minutes. As I was drawing the curtains around him for cover, he went “Um never mind, just get it over and done with” as he placed the empty container by his bed.
I peeked inside. “You sure? I could wait you know”, I told him. He waved me over and encouraged me to proceed. Okie.
So there I was again, having to check for the vein as I undid the tourniquet earlier when he said he needed to pee so he could move his arms better. Happy that I found a pretty visible vein, I swabbed the area again and picked up the needle.
My eyes were fixed over the greenish blood vessel under his skin when I felt him jolting. He was pointing animatedly to something over my shoulder.
“Ah! I see my friend!”, squealed he, as I looked out of the window to see a red car driving into the hospital’s parking area. I smiled at the patient and assured him that his friend should be up at the ward to say hello, I’m sure. The needle’s now steadied over his arm.
Me: Alrighty, here goes.
Him: …..I think I need to pee.
Me: Oh. Okie. Lemme undo the tourniquet.
I returned the needle to the trolley for the third time and handed him the urine container. As I was about to stand to leave, I saw him gazing into the urine container.
Him: Hmm…I think I’ll wait. You better go ahead and finish your stuff.
Me: *doubting him* You sure? If your bladder can’t hold it’s best I leave you to it first.
Him: *sets the container down yet again* No, you do your stuff. I’m alright.
Me: You absolutely sure?
Him: Yeah yeah go for it.
Me: Okie. Right.
I told myself if he ever reaches for the container and NOT pee again, it’s gonna be the first time I’ll ever convince/coax/plead a patient to urinate once and for all. Thankfully, the patient didn’t exhibit anymore sudden random fleeting desires to empty his bladder till I was done. Looking back, maybe he got a bit nervous prior to having a needle put into him? No idea *shrugs*
A mischevious part of me thought about hanging a shiny plaque above his bed emblazoned with the words:-
‘To pee, or not to pee…That is the question’