It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to post anything – thanks for bearing with me.
Believe me, it’s been a busy few months. I finished up my clinical rotations, worked in a Chinese hospital, graduated medical school, became a Lieutenant, and drove from one coast to the other to reach my new home – all of which would have made great topics for posts, but what you really want to hear about it my first day as a doctor.
No, it wasn’t exciting – I didn’t save any lives. Hell, I didn’t even see a patient. But it is all but obligatory to summarize the first day strangers began referring to me as “doctor” – no longer in that cute, almost patronizing way it’s used to address medical students – but for real.
What I will probably remember best about my first day of internship isn’t any of the inspiring talks I heard or department heads I met – I will remember what happened in the bathroom that morning.
I set my alarm extra early to give myself plenty of time to get ready (and get lost). After only hitting the snooze once (a true miracle), I walked my uniform into the bathroom. As I stood there brushing my teeth, I heard a familiar sound coming from the bathroom above mine. When I honed in on it, I realized it was one of my neighbors playing a rather spirited game of Temple Run.
This continued throughout my entire morning routine. I even checked before I left my apartment – the game was still on. I wish I had that much time to play Temple Run in the bathroom.
What? Did you think I was going to say I vomited out of fear? Well, I didn’t, though I’m sure that will happen at some point this year.
When I arrived at the hospital, I parked in the visitor lot (I mean, the staff lot is for real doctors and nurses, after all). I wandered between buildings on the huge hospital campus, and eventually ran into a friend I had trained with in the past. She was with two other interns, so I joined them on the quest to find the auditorium.
During an elevator ride, we discussed which direction we should try first when we got off – some of us had worked at this hospital before. The doors opened, and a veteran nurse stepped off, but not before muttering “Oh, god help us, another new group.”
Not cool, man.
The rest of the day did indeed contain some inspiring speeches, but was mostly death by PowerPoint and mundane health assessments. I was too dehydrated to provide a urine sample, so I posted up in front of a water fountain until I could.
When it came time for our blood to be drawn for routine testing, we stood in long lines and chatted, slowly shuffling towards a large classroom with several stations set up.
I sat down at one of the tables when it was my turn, and the hospital corpsman prepared my arm and applied a tourniquet. I wasn’t really watching, until I hear a sucking sound and looked down to find a large hematoma above my vein and the needle just above it.
He looked flustered, so I asked for a piece of gauze and applied some pressure to stop the hematoma from getting any bigger. I also told him to get a new vacutainer, as it sounded like he lost his seal.
I was shocked – no one had ever blown one of my veins before. Nurses LOVE my veins! I’m not some 85 year old woman – people would pay money to practice on these things!
“Ok, round two. He was just a little excited, that’s all. This time it’ll probably be fi…” – and before I could finish, he did it again. He blew another vein.
I gave the corpsman my other arm for the third attempt, mostly because I couldn’t stand another needle in that area, but also because maybe he would be less nervous looking at a non-mutilated arm.
He applied the tourniquet and we decided on the best vein we could see. His unsteady hand punctured my skin and the underlying vein, and the needle left just as quickly as it had entered – the pressure from the tourniquet caused another hematoma (my third of the morning) to form.
He apologized profusely, and I played it cool, joking that corpsman probably love to stick the new docs a few times before we get started. I called a time out and gave him some advice (I’m supposed to be a teacher now, after all), but I also told him if he didn’t get this one I’d have to do it myself. I was running out of veins.
This time, he got it. I acted as his third hand and gave him the vacutainers he was supposed to fill, for fear that he would lose the vein prematurely again. He finished the blood draw without incident, although I had to remind him to take the tourniquet off before taking the needle out (3 hematomas is plenty for me, thanks).
I made sure the vials were labeled correctly (I was NOT doing that again any time soon), cracked one more joke to let him know there were no hard feelings, thanked him, and left. I now had a funny story (and the battle scars to go along with it) for the rest of the day.
So that was my first day. I hope you had a better Monday. And if you’re that guy playing Temple Run in the bathroom all morning – get a damn job!