Enough talk about books. Today I will debase myself.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the funny doctor’s stories circulating on the Internet. I’ve even posted a few on my blog (Peanut Butter and Kentucky Jelly Sandwiches). But often these jokes are at the patient’s expense.
Well, not today, folks. Today, the expense is all mine.
Travel back in time with me, back to an era of leggings, patterned sweaters, and scrunchies. Back to my days of residency training. This is my gift to you—four tales of humiliation sustained by yours truly. Relax and enjoy…
The Not-Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Sad
1. The Not-Good
Here I am, post-call from a night in the pediatric ICU, trudging to my weekly afternoon clinic. Tired, showerless, and still in scrubs, I whip out my happy face and greet my first patient, a five-year-old girl with a painful ear. After conducting the history, I smile and wheel my stool closer to the child, now perched upon her mother’s lap. As I lean in to auscultate her lungs, she turns to her mother and shouts, “Pew, Mommy, she stinks!”
Yeah? Well, you try smelling fresh and breezy after an adrenalin-fueled thirty hours in the PICU, Little Miss Antiperspirant!
2. The Bad
On a similar vein, again post-call, again exhausted from yet another stressful rotation, a different plucky youth in my afternoon clinic focuses his laser-like gaze on my generous beak. Then he widens his eyes and suddenly proclaims, “That pimple is huge!”
Aw, thanks Mr. Benzoyl Pediatric.
3. The Ugly
Flash forward to a couple years later. I’m now chief resident. I’m skilled. I’m professional. I’m delighted to pass time in my clinic after a full eight-hours of sleep. Eager to see my first patient, a fresh-from-the-womb newborn, I bound into the room and greet a young woman and a silver-haired man, the latter of whom is holding the baby.
“Hello, I’m Carrie Rubin,” I say. “So nice to meet you.” Then, glancing at the older man, I add in an exuberant tone, “And how wonderful that Grandpa could join us!”
The room falls silent. The mother looks at me, and with a voice that could melt an igloo, says, “This is my husband, the baby’s father.”
4. The Sad
Now I am post-residency, newly employed in a group practice that maintains weekend hours at a different clinic site. During my first Saturday shift in the unfamiliar exam rooms, I repeatedly open and shut drawers, hoping to find what I need—tongue blades, strep swabs, alcohol pads.
Later on, after removing staples from a child’s scalp laceration as part of his ER follow-up, I am relieved the simple procedure went smoothly. No bleeding, no discomfort, no crying. And the wound is healing well. But just to be safe, I’ll cover the site with antibacterial ointment.
Once again floundering in the drawers for the desired object, I finally spot a small packet of Bacitracin and pull it out. While I discuss with the family wound-care instructions, I apply the ointment. Once finished, I pat the child on the back and wave the family on their way.
As I turn back to the examination table to clean up my mess, the label on the empty packet of ointment catches my eye. I pause. I suck in a breath.
I have just applied a liberal coating of KY Jelly to my patient’s head.
Oh, yeah, that will keep the infection away.
Have you ever done something idiotic in your line of work? Ever put your foot in your mouth? Ever told your doctor she smelled?
All images from Microsoft Clip Art unless otherwise indicated