Sunday, November 11, 2007


I think there are basically three ways that you can call someone doctor.

The first way is the normal way. Like when patients or families call you doctor. They call you doctor because that's how you've introduced yourself and that's what you are. This way is fine.

The second way is the friend way. Like when you bump into a friend from med school in the elevator. "Dr. Au! How the hell are you?" That kind of thing. Really, they would call you by your first name, because you're friends, but they call you "doctor" sort of like a little joke. Even Joe calls me "Dr. Au" sometimes. This way is fine too.

The third way is the dripping with sarcasm way. Like when I was a Peds resident, there was a nurse up in the NICU, one of those "I've worked here for 30 years" nurses who would kind of rake the junior residents over the coals. She would always call me "doctor," but not in a pleasant way. More in a I can't be bothered to learn your name, and also I want to remind you that despite the fact that your ID technically says "M.D.", in practical terms I actually outrank you by several strata. She would always drawl sardonically, "Just put in the order, doctor." I don't know, it's hard to explain. You have to hear it. Why do you have to say it like that? It's not like I ever insist that anyone calls me "doctor" anyway.

Or this one attending I work with from time to time. He also employs the dripping-with-sarcasm "doctor" tone, often when pointing out something completely obvious, as if you didn't know any better. "Don't you think you'd better ventilate the patient, doctor?" Well, yes, I do think I should do that, which is why I'm SQUEEZING THE BAG.

I don't like the third way.