Sunday, February 19, 2012

Winning the game

Cross posted on Dose of Reality

I’m now two weeks into my internal medicine rotation, and I’m learning a lot. It’s been, how shall we say, a steep learning curve, and I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it; it’s humbling to realize that even in the 10th month of my M3 year I still don’t really know what I’m doing. In spite of bumbling around more than a little, I realized that yesterday (and carrying over to today) I won the game, or rather, my residents won the game for me. Inside the hospital, patients who are admitted go to different teams on different days depending on who is on call. My team admits new patients every other day. This means that the other every other days (except for some minor technicalities) we don’t admit new patients, and instead just care for those that we already have on our service. This also means that if one manages to discharge all of one’s patients on a call day, that the next day there isn’t anything to do! This is called winning the game. That’s what happened yesterday – while I was away at lecture, my patients were discharged and I showed up this morning with very little to do. The reality of being a medical student (and arguably this is the only situation in which the interns have a better deal), however, means that I just picked a new patient from one of the many already on our list, and started reading about her for Monday.

Somewhere between celebrating that I might get to head out a little early on a Saturday, and lamenting that a med student’s work is never done, I wondered a bit at the phrase “winning the game.” It’s obvious that being in the hospital isn’t a game for most people; I’ve heard some general lecturing about how inappropriate it is to joke about patients, and do my best to be respectful of every person I encounter. That said, if you can’t laugh about your life (and my life is pretty much the hospital at this point), what can you do? Of all of the different coping mechanisms we all use to keep working when our patients leave for home, hospice, or the hereafter, I’m not sure that humor isn’t one of the least destructive options, so I guess I’ll just keep on laughing until I can’t…

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