* * Anonymous Doc

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The hospital is a terrible place to be during a holiday week.

Nothing's getting done. Administrators are out, technicians are out, attendings are out. Sure, some people are here, and on call, and emergencies can get taken care of (slowly), but for the most part, everything is at half-speed. There were a tremendous number of discharges last Friday. There have been a lot fewer since. Illness doesn't know it's a holiday-- but you wouldn't realize that from walking the floors. You simply don't want to be in a hospital over Thanksgiving, if you have a choice. Which, of course, very few people do.

The hospital is also a terrible place to be during a non-holiday week.

I don't know, last month I felt like I had some interesting patients, some of the work was okay, I wasn't hating it so much. This month I'm in the bad hospital, where everyone's basically a nursing home patient taking up space for no legitimate medical reason, I don't have enough to do, and so I end up sitting in the call room for hours of the day, alone, surfing the Internet and intermittently checking on lab results. No one thinks of a doctor as having down time, as being bored, but a lot of the time that's what this is. You don't need a medical degree to do most of what I'm doing, you don't even need a high school degree. It's dull. But this is what a hospital-based attending does, a lot of the time, at least at a place like this where nothing cutting-edge is going on, where interesting cases are transferred away to somewhere better, or at least sent to a specialist. Maybe everyone is right. Maybe general internal medicine is just a dull profession. Not that I want to be dealing with the same organ all day as a specialist, and see two or three different problems 98% of the time. I don't know. I also don't want to work the hours of a surgeon. I have some friends who are jealous that at least I have a path, I have a future, I know what I'm doing with my life. But I'm jealous they still have choices, they still have a chance to end up doing something that feels more important than this. Yes, on good days being a doctor feels important. But today, in a half-empty hospital, twiddling my thumbs, it feels pretty pointless.


  1. Maybe this downtime/dullness is an opportunity to consider patients as people, rather than as just "cases"? I mean, I acknowledge that our medical culture has distain for this approach, but you could try doing it, just on your own to at least keep yourself focused. Everybody is pretty one-dimensional and boring when reduced to a "case" -- e.g., a diagnosis, a history. Maybe in your down time you could toss around the relative meanings of health and illness, youth, and old age, and come to some interesting conclusions.

  2. What a vague, holier-than-thou comment. What do you mean, consider patients as people? Judging by Anon Doc's other posts, he does already.

    The problem with the "interesting conclusions" which you speak of is that they all happen to involve euthanasia, which is criminal.