Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Homer in a White Coat

On most evenings I arrive for my shift in the early hours of the night ready to assist my fellow colleagues in handling the business of the moonlight. Such are the duties of the night float, cover difficult patients, help the interns, admit whoever decides to experience difficult and life changing events that require immediate medical care. Mostly, it’s the garden variety Internal Medicine stuff: Pneumonias, Cancer, Heart Failure. Excitement at night is unwarranted and largely unwanted as not enough people are there to help.

Occasionally, there are nights that remind you of why you became a doctor in the first place, like last evening. Last night all the Fascinomas in the community congregated before my shift and decided they will all come in together, a sort of intimidation tactic. A night where I wished I could hold on to the cases a little longer, at least until I figured out what, in god’s name, is going on.

These cases are complex and intriguing but instead of feeling amazed one become amazingly overwhelmed as one’s vocabulary instantly expands. It is truly incredible how many intelligent ways there are to write “I don't know”. A few of my favorites: “unclear origin of source”, “questionable significance of finding”, “consider idiopathic origin”. Heck, I'd write “Dahhhh” and scratch my head if I didn't think more was expected of me.

So if on some unfortunate evening you run across my path in your hour of need and I say something like “Well Mr. Smith, this finding is nonspecific and once the tests come back we'll have a clearer picture of what's going on”. I suggest you take out a magic marker and color me yellow, add two hair shafts on the top of my head and call me Simpson. I'm just doing my intelligent impression of Homer in a white coat anyways.