Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First Night On Call

Well, here I am, my first night as a medical student -- a medical anything, for that matter -- on call. In point of fact, it may not turn out to be much since I'm covering for an outpatient pediatrics practice. Most likely, any parent ringing up tonight will get the nurse practitioner who will triage the case and we'll see the child tomorrow. My job is to keep tabs on the E.R. and it's one I share with my attending

In the event a patient's parent decides tomorrow is not soon enough for Johnny or Joanie to be seen, my attending will get a call from the E.R. informing him it's time to awaken me from a sound sleep and get my eager backside down the hill from the apartment I share with another osteopathic medical student, and perform an evaluation. Then, on the assumption my attending's presence is legitimately required, I'll call back and summon him from hearth, home, and his spouse's warm feet, to join me in a game of Guess What I'm Sick With?

Should he decide his presence is not absolutely essential and his confidence in me well-placed after all, he may simply confirm my diagnosis and treatment plan, and inform the E.R. doc to implement the orders he's asked me to write and intends on signing first thing in the morning. The real morning, that is, when sane people are supposed to get up, not at 3.00 AM when night owls, insomniacs, and medical students prowl the streets looking for trouble in all the right places.

How all this came about is, I've been doing my pediatrics rotation out here in Western Massachusetts, in the Berkshire Mountains, and my assigned attending physician has taken a week off. No, it wasn't me, this has been in the hopper quite some time. So, she asked a colleague to take me on for a week and he does his own call. Noting the eager gleam in my eye when he mentioned this tidbit, naturally he didn't want to disappoint. And the truth is, I've been looking forward to tonight since my internship days in Boston, and there was no way I was going to let him have all the fun.

So, we shall see how the night unfolds. I may not do a thing. Then again, it's a full moon and as psychiatric mythology would have us believe, anything goes. It doesn't really and psych admissions are no more prevalent on full moon evenings than they are on Friday the Thirteenth. It just feels cool to say it that way and have the uninitiated think we're cool for being in the E.R. when anyone with a lick of sense would be in bed, sound asleep. But I'm not dozing this one out in an on-call room; I'm snug as a bug in my little alcove of a bedroom one step off the kitchen, where I'll be be until duty calls. Or my attending. whichever comes first.

(Photo of Berkshires Medical Center copyright 2011 by the author)
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