Thursday, May 06, 2004

inside the on-call room

The residents' on-call room is roughly 6' x 9', outfitted with a bunk bed (if there's only one resident taking call, the top bunk is useful for throwing your crap on) a file cabinet, and a desk, on which sits a computer and a phone. There is one door leading to the bathroom, which has a curtained-off shower area. Let us take a closer look at the details of this room, shall we?

The bed, although strewn with stuff, is meticulously made, with a roll of dense hospital blankets at the foot, and the coversheet tucked into pristine "hospital corners" (ho ho) at the edges. The reason it is so neat and unlined is because no one really gets to sleep in it. It's just there to taunt you.

On the desk is a bottle of water (to fight dehydration from the inside), a small botle of moisturizer (to fight dehydration from the outside--all the handwashing, though hygienic, is murder), a roll of pink-tape (the kind NICU nurses use to secure ET tubing, and that residents use to tape up signout sheets), several copies of a Neonatology textbook written by one of the departmental bigwigs (donated by the department or a pre-emptive strike against pimping, I do not know), a "scut-bucket" (filled with tape, IVs, syringes, gauze, t-connectors, lab tubes, what have you) and a half-eaten pack of gum. On the wall, next to where the computer's mouse sits, is a thousand old ink marks made by a thousand former residents who entered orders on the computer or clicked on labs while holding a pen in their right hand.

In the bathroom is a collection of tiny little tubes of toothpaste, that hospitals give out to patients in their little "welcome kit." You know, tiny cake of soap, toothpaste, flimsy toothbrush, mouthwash, socks with grippy treads on the soles, pitcher for water, basin for puke. There's a big bin of tiny toothpastes in the supply room, you just have to know where to look. Not that you'd want to steal it anyway, it's generic and gritty and barely even minty, a toothpaste you use in desperation at 4am when you feel like you're growing moss from your enamel. I would not recommend using the hospital mouthwash, though. It's yellow and it tastes like toilet-bowl cleaner. Hold out for brand-name.

On top of the file cabinet is the buffet. Half a cup of cold coffee. A wilted salad. A partially gnawed turkey sandwich, 9 hours old, purloined from noon conference. A muffin from yesterday morning. Get in my belly.

The callroom. Like a creepy monastic dormroom. Learn to love it.

On my way home today, I stopped by Barnes and Noble to pick up a gift for Joe. (It's his 30th birthday today. Yes, he's an Older Man.) The salesclerk was ringing up my stuff and then suddenly asked me, "Are you a doctor?" At first, I was kind of surprised, wondering how she guessed, and then I realized that I was wearing scrubs. Ah. The gig is up. I told her yes, kind of reluctantly, because you can never tell what people will say next ("Yeah, can I ask you a question? I have this rash on my buttocks that's spreading...") but she was just really curious, asking me what field I was in and at which hospital I worked. I paid for my books and she handed me my receipt. "Thank you," I told her. "No, thank you, for being a doctor," she replied, all earnestly.

Funny. I don't know if being a doctor is just one of those jobs that people like to talk about, and I'm too entrenched in the workaday ethic of intern year to really think about it being anything close to "noble" or "meaningful," but it's nice to be reminded sometimes, even if it's by people other than your patients, that your job is important.

Ooh, but speaking of workaday ethic, our intern class retreat is this weekend! We're going to the Hamptons. I've never been there before, but I like to say it. "I'll be in the Hamptons this weekend." Makes me feel like a socialite. It's funny, because the whole point of the weekend is for us to bond with each other outside of the hospital, but I'll bet that the hospital and the goings-on therein will be the only thing we talk about all weekend long. You can't blame us, really. It's the only thing that every single one of us has in common.

Currently reading: "Eats, Shoots and Leaves". You wouldn't think a book about punctuation would be so entertaining, but I was reading this book on the subway, and I was so engrossed that I missed my stop.

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