20 July 2008

Identity Crisis

Though I can understand the mutual animosity that sometimes happens between nurses and physicians, I still hate it. One of the most annoying recurring themes of our emergency room is that the patient charts would be scattered among the four winds, and sooner or later various groups would need to either do their rounds or orders.
Me to a nurse: Sir, I just need to borrow the chart of (patient)...
Nurse to me: (Without looking up) Di ko siya patient tignan mo list ko (He's not my patient check my list)
(points to handwritten list of patients taped to a wall)
Me: Uh, okay. (I'm pretty sure you were decked to him, but hey, whatever.)
Nurse to another nurse: Ha ha ha, ay patient ko pala siya (turns out he's my patient)
Me, from afar: F&@@# s@#!
Listen, I don't know you and you don't know me. Wouldn't it be great if you had a default level of courtesy that you offered to any human being who crossed your path? Isn't that just a given as a citizen of the earth? Wouldn't it be moreso now that you're in a service industry?

The truth is, I'd rather not tarnish my memory of the dedicated nurses with these trolls, because there's a lot of the former. The problem is, even when they're golden, it turns out I still don't know them. One of the perks (for all it's worth) of being part of the physician's team is you get your name mentioned a lot during surgery, especially if the resident is one of your friends or the senior likes teasing you with questions about your life or about the case you're assisting on. So it's easy to pick up your name and soon the nurse assist will call you by name as well. So during a particularly long intra-operative T-tube cholangiogram we were all sitting ducks and this adorable nurse shares with me the full details of her love life (uh... She had a boyfriend whom she loved but was a bit stalker-y and embarrassing, and a romantic older suitor whom she kind of liked and she was torn). I thoroughly enjoyed talking with her and giving her advice about who sounded like a winner. The problem was, I had no idea what her first or last name was. Surgeons should really announce those things upfront for my benefit, ha ha ha.

As luck would have it, that would not be my last encounter with her, because the operating rooms they're assigned to are fairly consistent. And the more we talked, the more I was embarrassed not to know her name at all despite knowing her favorite song and her two lovers.

Outside the operating room, we have our nameplates for easy identification. The nurse receptionist at the outpatient department was a really nice guy, who for some reason I couldn't pick up the name of, despite him calling me by my first name all the time. The resident couldn't really help me out either, since he didn't call him by name. There were no other nurses working in that department, so no colleagues of his that would mention his name. I felt bad about it (again) because he was really friendly, sort of the antithesis of those bastards at the emergency room, and was always encouraging us with how many charts were left to look over in the OPD. "Fifteen na lang!!!"

So it's been more than a year since I graduated and I found myself wandering the registrar's office for some administrative concerns, and I happen to see him. "Doctor Mark!" He calls out to me. Shit. HE KNEW MY NAME!!! Without my nameplate and everything! That is fantastic. We shot the breeze for a while and he wished me well, and I him. You know, nurses should wear full nameplates all the time for my benefit, ha ha ha.

Being a courteous and amiable person, if you're lucky with your company, can really help lighten the load. I would still have been able to do my job with no problem if these kind nurses were replaced by dickheads but I'm pretty sure I would have been miserable about it (bloodshot eyes, hair sticking out in all directions, smoke pouring out of ears). Perhaps my lesson should be asking their name on my first encounter.

This is my entry to The Blog Rounds 16th Edition: Unsung Heroes hosted by Dr. Gigi.
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07 July 2008

Five Stories of Sex

I have here a collection of 5 anecdotes relating to gender issues and medicine. Some are funny, some are poignant, some are controversial, and some don't even have a point. My only goal is to make you see things from a different perspective: Being a male physician has its own set of pitfalls.

1. When I was in my last year of college, many of the girls of my batch were worried because of the impending release of the list of people who had been accepted in the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. There's so many factors for this, but the primary reason is that the GWA curve is skewed to the right, and Biology students are not particularly known for high GWAs. They were afraid of being cut off simply because they had a more difficult course to begin with. I was listening to a classmate, a renowned worry-wart, when she asked me, "Well, aren't you afraid of not getting in?" She stops herself and says, "Oh, wait-- of course not." I thought she was going to say that I didn't have any academic issues, but she finished her statement with a look of such disdain-- "You're a GUY." Hah, people who put themselves on pedestals, that teaches me. Disgusted by the whole show, it was my turn to tell one of my friends, "Pustahan tayo, kahit may p*ke ako, makakapasok pa rin ako." (Translated: Let's wager, even if I had a vulva, I'd still get in.) It wasn't like me to get so angry or to be so vulgar (notice the self-censorship?), but what can I say, I had never been so insulted before (that has since changed, of course). Well, it was just a joke to make light of my disbelief. To this day, my friends love that soundbite of mine and forever associate me with the phrase "kahit may p*ke ako..." Emphasis on the second to the last word.

2. During our rotation in Obstetrics, I prided myself on never losing my temper with a patient, except once (what I shouted was (translated), "Stop staring at me, your baby's coming out!" Take a guess what was happening). Anyway, there was a particular gynecological patient whom none of my blockmates wanted to touch. Each time they looked at her, they would get annoyed, might I say they even looked like they were seething. Apparently she gave them hell each time they touched her, to do blood works and even take her blood pressure. Since I was the only one she hadn't yet annoyed, I sucked it up and it was my turn to be responsible for her. Strangely, she was all sweetness and light, purring in a weak, kindly voice, and always thanking me. I turned to my blockmates and asked, "What the hell are you talking about? She's so nice!" It'll forever remain a mystery if it was because I was me or because I am male, but she never wondered why no other intern ever touched her again.

3. When I first wanted to be a physician (I was very young), I wanted to be a pediatrician. There was vehement protesting from-- you guessed it-- my dad. He wasn't angry, but he always maintained that pediatrics is not a man's specialty. His justification was that women have a maternal instinct to which children respond well. But I could always read between his lines (though I am not going to mention what I thought, because he never said it and I don't want to put words in his mouth). There was even a time when I sought middle ground by aspiring to be a pediatric surgeon. I teased my dad that he's so old-fashioned, especially as I knew several gifted male pediatricians, and it's not even an issue to many people. I thought I related to children extremely well. Today my goal lies in internal (adult) medicine. Seeing young children struggle with their emotions-- whether they be frightened, brave, hopeful, angry, hurt, confused, or resigned-- it was all too emotionally taxing. Especially if they're crying but still trying to be brave, Lordy. I still don't know if a man or a woman makes a better pediatrician (can we just settle on equality? Ha ha), but I do know it takes a hell of a lot of guts.

4. One night shortly after the new year has begun and the new crop of surgery residents have settled, the department (at least the residents plus very few consultants) have this huge blowout where they drink beer (plus...?). I was on duty the night it happened, and one of the residents, a huge guy, came crashing in the dressing room of the operating room complex, absolutely smashed, and passed out on the floor that was littered with smelly shoes and cigarette butts. Shit. After making sure he was alive and seeing that at least a few of his friends knew where he was, I just let him sleep on the dressing room floor. Now, who says that surgery is a boys' club?!

5. I was one of only two male interns in our group of ten. I was in a small discussion group with four of my gorgeous blockmates with a preceptor-consultant. After every two sentences on his lecture, he'd ask a personal (harmless) question to each of my lovely ladies, like what high school they were from. My eyes rolled so far back so many times I must have looked like I was seizing (thank goodness he was so dense or I was so invisible to him that he never noticed). Needless to say, he barely knew I was there. At one point, since we were huddled so close together in his office looking at fine details of tiny pictures, he put his hand on the knee of one of my groupmates. "Oh my GOD!" I whispered to my other groupmate. "He just put his hand on her knee!" She was wearing trousers, but still. Not one other person noticed, including the touch-ee herself. "Well, this guy is clearly a maniac. I don't even exist to him!" Noticing that he might have been looking like too much of a lech, he nonchalantly threw me the question of where I went to high school. Bingo, it was his son's high school and he was fervently following the high school basketball championships. After that, the girls became invisible to him. My friends were all, "You were saying?" On a positive note, they were more conscientious of proper interaction after that. And on a bite-me-in-the-ass note, they always noticed when a female resident was getting chummier with me than with them.

This is my entry to The Blog Rounds 15th Edition: Sex and the Clinics
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