* * Anonymous Doc

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Yesterday morning, I ran into one of the attendings I've worked with a whole bunch of weeks at a coffee shop a block away from the hospital. I said hello, friendly-- or at least as friendly as I can be at six in the morning.

He looks at me, no real recognition.

I try again. "Dr. Jones, hi."

"You look familiar," he says. "Where do I know you from?"

"I'm a resident. We were on floors together a couple of months ago. [My name]."


"We had that patient who dropped dead in the middle of the day...?"

"Yeah, sorry, I... I work with so many residents."

"Yeah, that's fine."

"Good luck with residency."

"Yeah, thanks."

Good thing I didn't ask this one for a recommendation letter. This is not an isolated incident, and it's not just about me. I don't know why it is that as residents, we can remember all of our attendings, but most of the attendings lose all memory of their residents three minutes after the rotation ends. And sometimes during the rotation. I know we look different without the white coats, and it would be hard completely out of context. But a block away from the hospital, at six in the morning, is not completely out of context, and if you work with someone for a few weeks-- seeing them every day, talking to them, interacting with them for a few hours a day for weeks-- you would think they would stick just a little, for a couple of months.

I think maybe it's a status thing. Patients remember the nurses, nurses don't really remember the patients. We'll have patients come in and tell a nurse, "oh, you were my nurse last time, in 2006," and the nurse will have no idea. Nurses remember the residents. I'll go back to a hospital after having rotated elsewhere for six months and the nurses will immediately remember who I am, and be friendly. I will usually remember most of them, but if I am being honest, they seem to remember me more than I remember them. Residents remember attendings, but attendings have no clue. Attendings, presumably, remember the people who run the hospital, who, I assume, have no idea who they are.

No one, of course, remembers the patients. Because no one in the hospital is lower status than the patients.


  1. Are you kidding me?

    Patients only have to remember a handful of doctors.

    Nurses only have to remember a few residents and attendings.

    Interns and students only have to know their teams, a few nurses, and a relatively smaller number of patients; residents are the same with more patients and with that comes more nurses.

    Attendings have to remember ALL. OF. THE. ABOVE. Plus they have more responsibilities than residents, a larger patient load than residents, and they have to be familiar with other faculty on top of that.

    You write some odd stuff sometimes but you're not usually this idiotic. Stop patting yourself on the back, you're not the only person in the hospital who cares about your patients.

  2. I have to agree with Anonymous. Residents have a limited 80 hour work week. Attendings have no limitations on the number of hours they have to work, and often have to cover for when the residents have to leave, cause their "work hours" are over.

  3. Regardless of the reason for not remembering people, that's scary.

    I find your posts brilliant and terrifying at the same time. Then again, I have hated hospitals since I was a kid, so no doubt that plays some part in it too.

  4. Whoa. What's with the venomous comments from jerk-face anonymous?

    Most people, when you say hi and they don't recognize you act like they feel bad and care about the fact that they can't remember you. Even busy people, like attendings. These attendings sound like ass-hats.

    My residents usually remember me AND say hi when I see them -- even three years later -- out and about. That is, except the ones on Internal Medicine and OB/Gyn. Many of my attendings remember me too, even though I don't expect them too. Trust me, this is THEM not you.

  5. I'm a nurse. You are not better than me. Ugh.