Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Reality Bites

Well, the shiny gloss of being an attending certainly didn't last long.

I have a new reference point for the expression "being thrown in the deep end of the pool" now. These days I feel like all I'm doing is inhaling water and pathetically thrashing around. 

I can remember rolling my eyes so many times in the past when being dragged through a long-winded seemingly redundant orientation at a new job. I would kiss the feet of someone who would orient me now.

No name tag, no hospital badge to get into the hospital. What are the codes to get into the change room, the back door of the clinic, to photocopy something? What forms do I need to fill out to book a surgery and then where do I put them? Who does the bookings? Do I need to book an anesthetist?

Where are the prescription pads? Where do I send my invoices, my day sheets, my O.R slips? What is my dictation code, do we have an ultrasound tech in the hospital, is there a pharmacy open on Sunday and when do I get paid? What times are the hospitalists on call until, do you routinely collect cord blood, what is an order set, where are the order sets? How do I empanel a patient, send a task, get an old chart?

Just a small sample of the myriad of questions I am trying to sort out while trying to actually care for patients. The cleaning staff are wiping around me an my desk every night. I make so many notes to self during the day; read up on post-kidney transplant surveillance, monitoring polymyositis, review guidelines for Barrett's esophagitis recall, post neonatal resus stabilization...remind myself how to interpret blood gases, put on casts, do fundoscopy, thrombolytics, a lumbar puncture.

But then I get home, nauseated and sweaty. Just so happy to get out of my microbe infested hospital or clinic clothing. I eat and think, "I should read up on those things now, I should work out, I should empty the dishwasher" but instead I find myself crawling into bed. Not caring that my feet probably have dried amniotic fluid on them.

And then a new day comes.

Or it doesn't. Instead the phone rings at 3am and I am driving back to the hospital for another delivery. This time the mom is fine but the baby is not fine. And I spend the next few hours talking to family members who have gone silent with fear and waking up neonatologists who are sleeping hundreds of kilometers away.

Then the night morphs into day and I am the hospitalist for the medical ward and my conversations shift to managing INR results and incontinence and wound vac dressings. A palliative patient, who I haven't met until that day has family there and they want to speak to the doctor about what is happening. My morning becomes afternoon and my lunch becomes the family meeting where I try my hardest to remember all the insightful and beautiful things that Atul Gawande talks about in Being Mortal and I try to remember to do more listening than talking.

So I leave the family meeting and fly into the clinic where on arrival my MOA throws up her hands at all the paperwork I am sending her and tells me it's not working. I duck into the first patient who wants a narcotic refill and disability form filled out and when I press him for details on the background of these requests he tells me...

you doctors are the worst...I was told how terrible the doctors are in this town, they don't care about anyone at all, even if you're dying...the worst...my old doctor cared, he prescribed me valium and dilaudid...he was a good doctor...you're a terrible doctor

And I can't help but feel the exhaustion from the night before crash over me. I can't stop the rising flush in my neck and my quickening pulse.

Where are the disability forms?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

False Summit

I finished my first stretch of call as an attending. Ten days of surgery coverage, two days of obs coverage mixed in there with a few ER shifts, consult clinic days, assisting, and scoping. Lots of "firsts" over the past 10 days.

I did my first middle of the night cesarean as an attending. No one there to tell me to cut higher or wider. No one there saying "it's safe to divide the omentum there" or showing me "the bladder is right there". It was just me standing there with sweat soaking through my bra and my socks.

The call came in around 3am, waking me and my husband up. I threw my pile of getting called back to the hospital clothes on. Duncan sleepily asked me what I was going in for.

Possible section. 

Good luck hon. 

Driving to the hospital I tried to breathe but it wasn't easy. I tried to remember the words of encouragement my attendings had given me over the last few years. Of course the only voices that easily came through were the words of doubt, the criticisms I've received. The houses along the way were quiet and dark as I rolled past, a contrast to my thoughts.

Later, when I got home. I was too wired to sleep. It was around five am. The edges of night were falling away and the morning bird songs had begun. I wasn't ready for bed but I went to our bedroom. I knew that Duncan would have had fragmented sleep after I left. I creaked open the door and he turned over.

How did it go?

It went well. It wasn't easy. I was terrified.  

I couldn't get back to sleep, I kept drifting in and out, wondering what time it was, hoping you'd be home soon.

I'm going to watch TV for a bit, I can't sleep yet. 

Thanks for coming in to tell me everything went OK, congrats. 

The big sleepy and warm hug was perfect. I went to the livingroom and put on Jim Gaffigan's newest stand up.

I thought that things would get easier when I finished residency. I thought that residency was really stressful because you were always having to do things the way other people wanted. You are always having to bend your preferences, practices, and schedule to the whim of your attendings. I had many days last year when I thought that being a resident would break me. I thought the stress and sleep deprivation was reaching the edges of sanity.

Like most things in life if I could go back I would do things much differently, and I'd chill the fuck out a bit too. The transition to becoming an attending has felt like taking off a 60lb backpack at the end of a hike, only to be handed a 100lb one while being told you have another 50 miles to walk. If only I'd known what was coming next.