* * Anonymous Doc

Monday, November 30, 2009

I don't know what's wrong with me today. I don't know if it's working the past three days, when everyone else on the planet was home, eating leftovers and napping on the couch. I don't know if it's this slow, boring hospital where nothing is urgent and no one gets better and we're basically babysitting the demented. I don't know if it's my resident, who makes me feel like an idiot about fifty times a day.

I admit, I try to leave as early as I can leave. I try to do my work quickly, I try to push the lab to get me the results I'm waiting for, I try to move things along as much as I can so that once night float gets here, I'm not lingering for hours, finishing things up. We work 12 hour days. I get home and I have two hours before I have to go to sleep, to start again the next morning. I don't think it's so terrible that I don't want to be in the hospital any more time than I have to be. I don't think it's so terrible that I want to leave when I'm allowed to leave. Night float exists so the day team can go home. We're not supposed to be there twenty-four hours a day. We're supposed to get our work done, hand our patients off, and go home. For a couple of hours to eat dinner and watch half an episode of Law and Order and then get a full night's sleep so we can be functional the next day. I'm not missing things, I'm not leaving my patients in the lurch, I'm doing everything I need to do. I just happen to do it faster than some people, and so I leave earlier than some people. Some people just don't seem to mind if they're there until 10:00 and then back at work at 7 the next morning. I do. I don't want to be there at 10:00 if I don't have to.

So maybe it makes me want to scream when my resident pulls me aside this morning and says,

"Hey, you know, you have to expect that when you're on floors, you're going to be here late. You're gonna go over the hours limits. You're gonna pull 14, 15 hours days. That's just what you have to expect."

No. Why should I have to expect to be here every single one of my waking hours if nothing's going on? My patients are stable. Or they're dead. Stable or dead, I can't help them. And if something happens to them at midnight, hey, it's not my fault. I'm not supposed to be here. That's why there's a night team. If we don't make ourselves leave, we're never going to leave. There are always new patients, you can always check in one more time. But that's not the job. There's an hours limit for a reason. I can't function on 6 hours of sleep. I can't really function on 7 hours of sleep, but I do.

If there was something interesting going on, if I felt like I was part of something important, something that mattered-- then maybe. Maybe then I wouldn't feel so burdened to stay 16 hours a day. And maybe that's the problem-- maybe the fact that this place is where they throw the leftover patients, who we can't do anything for, who are just circling the drain-- maybe the fact that it feels like a morgue in here is why I don't want to be here longer than I have to. Maybe if I ever got to think without my resident standing over me. Maybe if I ever got to feel valued instead of tortured, it would be less of an ordeal to be here.

I go back and forth in my head-- does it depend on the team, and if you like everyone on the team, work can sort of be fun? Does it depend on the patients, and if you think you're actually helping, then work can sort of be rewarding? Does it depend on the hours, and no one can really be here, alert, for as long as we're expected to, for as many days in a row as we're expected to?

I don't know, I think it's a combination of all of that. But to be made to feel like my 12 hours aren't enough, like wanting to leave is a crime, like I'm a bad doctor because I get my work done and don't want to be here forever-- well, that sucks. That sucks and frankly makes me want to cry, because I'm trying really hard and I think I'm doing okay, and to be told that that isn't good enough and to feel like my resident thinks I'm lazy when I'm actually just trying my hardest to be efficient and not be here all night. Well, I don't know how to do two more weeks of this. At least it's two and not four, and then I'm on another team, in another hospital.

My resident is coming back from the bathroom. I hear her berating a nurse in the hall. If she yells at me one more time to check a result I've already checked--


  1. I feel for you, I really do. First of all, if the resident yells at you, tell her that you will file a complaint. Seriously. Why would abuse or bullying be expected or tolerated on any job, let alone in the medical profession. To what end? Appalling. Second, it seems that you are being required to put in face time. I don't know how old you are, or how confident you feel in workplace confrontations, but questioning things -- politely and resolutely -- is one way to sort of dismantle these ridiculous "traditions" that cause more harm than good. I think the problem is, nobody questions, nobody complains, nobody challenges and therefore, nothing changes. So, stand up for yourself! Good luck, and I hope your remaining 2 weeks go by fast! -- Miss__Tina (on Twitter)

  2. Hey bud,
    Perhaps it's too late for this rotation, but on the next one maybe you can ask your resident on the first day or two what his/her expectations are about hours, signing out, etc. Some (mean) residents want their interns to sign out after they leave or at the same time and others don't mind if you sign out when your work is done (esp on weekends/holidays). I'm sure you know all of this but in any case, ask your resident on your next rotation.

  3. Have you ever read House of God?