My First Time on Call and Other Horrors
I always knew this day would come. At first, it was like death, something far off, something that I knew had happened to other people but not me. Yet, like all things in life that seem to concern a future you, my first time on-call caught up with me.
“Oh, don’t worry, you’re ready.”, my colleague smiled at me with her pearly white teeth, while she signed her name in the patient’s chart. “It’s not that bad. You can always call the senior physician.” Yes, I told myself, I could. “Now come, I will show you where you can find the death certificates.” My stomach dropped.
Two weeks ago I had started my clinical rotation fresh out of medical school. I was still so young, that many patients had been retired since I was born. They casually threw around times and dates that I could not remember because I had not been around yet. Moreover, I was a woman, and more often than not, patients assumed I was a nurse trying to examine them and asked me where the doctor was. At one point I didn’t even bother telling them again that I was the doctor.
The morning of my first 25-hour shift I got up, kissed my boyfriend goodbye, and felt like Aragorn stepping into the caverns of the Army of the Dead. I entered the hospital at 7 am and the first time I got to sit down and enjoy a sip of water, 3 pm had already passed. ‘ Only 17 more hours ’, I told myself, while nibbling on a cracker that tasted like sawdust.
My colleague with the pearly teeth called me 10 minutes later to tell me she had just admitted the patient XY with hyponatremia. “I wanted to give you a heads up.”, she told me. “He’s a bit out of it.” He’s a bit out of it meant that he was probably going to rob me of any sleep I might otherwise have been able to enjoy. I thanked her, wished her a good day, and got going on my work again. Half an hour later I got another call.
“I’m calling from ward A. The patient XY is refusing to take any medication and is so loud that his roommate has threatened to leave the hospital if he doesn’t quiet down.”
“Okay”, I responded, while typing a discharge letter for another patient. “I will be down…