Sometimes the only way to stay sane in the hospital is to force yourself to stop for five minutes, go off into the stairwell or something, take a deep breath, check your e-mail, maybe write a blog post, you know, just five minutes away from the beeping and the screaming and the nurses and the interns and the patients. Pager on, nothing terrible happening, I'm just talking five minutes. People take bathroom breaks longer than that. I mean, it takes longer than that just to clean the seat if you're taking a bathroom break in most parts of the hospital.
Yesterday, I had a prospective resident shadowing me. Part of the recruitment process. She apparently wanted to shadow a resident, and I was the lucky winner. The incentives for helping the hospital recruit, incidentally, aren't exactly there. I don't care who the new interns will be. I'm a third-year, I won't be here, it doesn't matter to me who they fill their class with. That sounds bad, but this isn't college, I have no institutional loyalty, and I'm never going to work with these people. They invite us to recruiting dinners all winter, but the idea of spending my off time at recruiting events (even for a free meal) is sort of horrifying. I don't believe this hospital is any better or worse than anywhere else these med students can decide to do their residency. I don't know enough about the competition to have anything useful to say. Residency is what residency is rumored to be. They can do it here, they can do it elsewhere, I have no useful comparisons to draw. Some places get called "toxic programs," but, really, I have no idea what makes one place toxic and one place terrific. This place seems like a lot of other places. See, this is not useful advice.
So this prospective intern is shadowing me, and taking it very literally, as she stands six inches away from me. Asking questions. Which are fine, and I understand she has questions, and I understand that asking actual residents might get her more honest answers than asking the program director. But asking questions while I'm running a code is probably not the smartest idea. Or asking questions while I'm telling a patient about her test results. Or asking questions while I'm on the phone with the attending, trying to figure out a plan for the patient who we thought we were discharging, but, guess what, we're not!
Finally, I have a moment to breathe, and I decided to take just a tiny break, eat the banana I've been carrying around for three days, check my e-mail, see if the world has collapsed or six more Republican debates have happened or what is going on the world. For five minutes.
"I'll be back in a couple of minutes."
"Oh, I'll come."
"No, stay here. I'll be right back."
"Wait, I wanted to ask you a question."
"Please, I promise, we'll figure out some time later when I'll answer any questions you have. But I just need five minutes."
"But if you're not doing anything--"
"This is the only five minutes I've had in ten hours to eat this banana. I will be right back."
"Can't I just ask one--"
"What is this question that's so important?"
"I just wanted to know how you chose internal medicine."
"I'm sorry. We can talk about this later today."
"--because I'm deciding between medicine and--"
"No, I'm sorry if I'm being rude, but we're not having this conversation now--"
"--and I've done a bunch of volunteer work in the one area, but on my own time, with a professor, I've been working on a research project--"
"No, no, no, please, stop talking--"
"--and of course, my recommendation letters--"
"Stop. This is not an interview. I don't care. I'm not evaluating you. No one is going to ask me about you. I don't need to know this. If you want to shadow me, fine. But that means watching and not talking. And when I say this is not the time to ask me questions about why I chose internal medicine, and why I chose this program, and whether you should choose it too-- no. You need to stop talking. If you need to talk to someone, go talk to a patient. I will be back."
I imagine she will not be ranking this program very highly.
That's probably a good thing for everyone.