If you look at the posts on this site, you’ll notice a glaring gap between the month of August and the month of October. Maybe you’ve wondered why. Maybe you attributed it to the inconsistencies and waxing, waning enthusiasm of a new blogger.
Fear is, in fact, what happened.
I’m currently the last year of my fellowship. That’s 2 years of college, 4 years of medical school, 7 years of on-the-job training: over a decade spent preparing for a profession that I’m about to officially, independently embark on. If anything, I am over-prepared. I should be impatiently chomping at the bit. I should be eager to move on.
But for the majority of residents who are not psychopaths, and certainly among majority of first year and female residents, the problem is, in fact, over-apologizing.
As a Canadian, and as an only daughter in an Asian household, I understand your pain. Politeness to the point of discomfort is practically the mortar of my being. I grew up differential and soft-spoken. I lived within the rules set by school, by parents, and by society. When coloring, I drew crisply within the lines. And it worked well for a while: the quiet, nice girl who puts her head down and does her work well may not be well known, but she is certainly well loved (if and when she is recognized).
I would argue that medicine is no place for this sensibility.
In the American medical system, the operating rooms are considered especially mysterious. In hospitals, the dedicated housestaff who operate in these places are members of an elite squad known as residents.
These are their stories.
Ravenlocks and the Three Scrub Sinks
Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Ravenlocks, with hair as black as raven feathers. But you wouldn’t know, because she had to stuff it every day under a really unflattering blue bouffant hat – two, in fact, to keep her hair from falling out through the weak elastic opening.
Most days, Ravenlocks would sit into operating room, waiting for her prince – no, wait, the patient – to come, rolled in by the anesthesia elves with their propofol magic. And after the prick of the needle, and the patient fell into a deep sleep of a hundred years (sorry, minutes), she would wander out into the wilderness that was the operating room hallways to look for a scrub sink to wash her weary hands.
Outside the operating room, she found a sink. Ravenlocks was in a hurry, so she opened a scrub brush and kicked the water panel with her knee to start the water’s flow. She tested the water from the first sink.
“Owwwwwwww, s#)%!” exclaimed Ravenlocks, a real pottymouth, “That f%^&*($ sink is TOO HOT!”
[Use some of that scrub for your tongue, young lady – love, Mom]
And I understand now, maybe not completely, but more, that in times of overwhelming joy, immobile sadness, hysterical laughter, absolute fear, and sometimes just perfect quiet there is Life. [And residency.]
/Dito Montiel, A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints [Added by me]
When the topic of my employment comes up, as it must inevitably do in the culture of American small talk, people become confused.
“You’re a fellow?,” they say, hesitantly, “…so that means you’re in residency?”
“You’re a fellow?…So that’s like an intern, right?”
“You’re a fellow?…But I thought you were a girl.”
I’m kidding about the last one. But despite the continued popularity and abundance television shows and movies taking place in hospitals, confusion remains around the roles of the vast horde of people milling around the hospital who will inevitably meet you, poke you, prod you, and wake you up at 5 am to check on you.
It’s definitely a hard thing to understand, especially when you’re overwhelmed by your medical situation and the atmosphere of controlled, chlorinated chaos contained in a very sterile-looking room. Even those aforementioned shows and movies don’t identify hospital staff correctly – an intern as a resident, a neurologist as a neurosurgeon, etc – and it’s like commotion cordis every time.
So for all you filmmakers, for all you television writers, and for all who will eventually come face-to-face with medical staff of some sort, here’s a quick guide to recognizing your (hospital) saints (non-canonical, with all apologies to Papa Francesco): Doctor Edition