Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Infectious Disease

I've been fairly lucky this year health-wise.  Barring a nasty bout of food poisoning during my last day at Shmeens, I've really stayed rather healthy.  But all streaks must come to an end, and I caught a co-intern's cold during my last week of in-house surgery.

Now, I wasn't actually that mad about it, because I get a semi-annual cold at minimum and I was karmically due.  However, I am not the world's healthiest girl, and I am an even worse recoverer.  My entire body usually feels as though lying on my back with my arms and legs crinkled in the air with the occasional twitch would be the best course of action, and I typically walk around muttering "I just want to die" about three times an hour to reaffirm this.  My ears are blocked up, so everyone thinks I am ignoring them when I really just cannot catch a word, and I get irritable.  I am constantly hot and sweating, which is quite a feat for someone who is perpetually freezing.  Even more amazingly, I have lost my appetite and and started skipping lunch today in favor of the closest thing I could get to an IV bag full of green tea.  I am constantly exhausted, but having trouble sleeping because of the mega-doses of Sudafed that I have been popping to dry up my congestion, so I am taking Benadryls by the handful as well.  My asthma is flaring up, and I spent all of last night coughing and choking on gobs of yellow phlegm.

I am, in short, the perfect intern to be starting her rotation on Infectious Disease this week.  The irony's pretty obvious here, since I probably shouldn't be walking around sniffling and dripping and sneezing and coughing on people who are already deathly ill.  I'm never afraid of catching C. Diff or Acinetobacter or Klebsiella from the patients, but I figure they really don't need my cold.  But, in medicine, we really don't get sick days, so I've been dragging my ass in and trying to make up for my sorry state by actually wearing all those gloves and yellow gowns and masks that we're supposed to wear all of the time in the isolation rooms.

Or maybe I should be aiming to catch a little C. Diff to go with my cold.  At least, then, I'd lose weight.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kindle Lovin', Contract Hatin' kind of woman

Yes, it's yet another I-heart-technology post.  Because....

I LOVE MY KINDLE!!!!!  <3  <3  <3

It's white and pretty and super duper lightweight.  I think I need to invest in a shield or cover of some sort, because I'm really planning to use the crap out of this thing.  I've been blowing through Pride and Prejudice, which is a novel that I still have trouble reading the second time around, but have no issue listening to and laughing with in the car.  I decided to get back into my medical leisure reading, so I downloaded "Walk on Water" and I'm trying to figure out how to get "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down" in an electronic version.  I also want to get some review books on there, in the vain attempt to get myself to read more on surgery when I have the spare time.

In other news, I had a relatively tiring call followed by a tortuous Friday conference, but I really woke up when we received a lecture on negotiating contracts for your first job as an attending.  I know that contract clauses is kindergarten stuff to some people, but I have to say, they do NOT teach you this stuff in med school, and they should.  It is shocking to discover that someone can tell you that you're not allowed to work within a radius of their practice if you wind up getting fired from there.  I couldn't believe that there are doctors out there who will promise you a partnership or ownership in their practice if you last a few years with them, but then will back out when you ask them to put that in writing.  Apparently, they can do things like fire you without cause, keep you from giving your phone number to patients when you're leaving, make you use vacation time for continuing medical education events + travel, not guarantee medical leave for pregnancy, force you to work all the weekends and holidays without fair distribution, make you a partner but not give equal rights and vote in business decisions, and even tell you that you'll work in one office and mandate you to go to a different office miles away.

The whole thing seemed so sketchy, and a little isolating because I realized that the only person who will look out for me in this process is me.  And maybe my lawyer, obviously.  But aren't there any decent doctors doing decent business out there?  These people were all once residents too - where's the nostalgia, the camaraderie, the sense of fair play?  Why do I feel like, just as I will have worked hard for five years to prove myself worthy, I will have to go back to playing in the dirt?  WHY CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG???  It's a little frustrating, and disheartening, to hear that you could work so hard and still only get offered bad deals hidden by a good name.  I mean, it was great that I heard all about this from a lawyer who was also a good teacher, because now that I know this stuff, I can make proper decisions.  I can be empowered  and actually negotiate my salary and contract terms, and not become yet another woman who is smart and clever and talented and still gets paid less than men who aren't as good.  Having this information puts me in the driver's seat, and that's a positive move in the right direction.

But I feel distasteful about it.  It just means that, yet again, I can't trust people as much as I'd like to.  

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Go Shorty, it's your birthday

Today, I am 28 years old!!  (And now, the requisite DAMN I'M OLD, WHEN THE HECK DID THAT HAPPEN).  I love celebrating my birthday, and getting calls from everyone and feeling overall popular.  Yes, it's all about ME.

The odd thing is, I tend to have a little anxiety around my birthday, only because I get very sensitive and insecure and then read everything into things going wrong.  On my 18th birthday, I got a seriously crampy period, then spent the day at home because it was a snow day (I know, why was I complaining?), and then stayed moody the whole week even though my parents had been meticulously planning a surprise birthday party for me at my favorite restaurant.  I read into slights, like who didn't post on my wall on Facebook (what do you mean, you didn't have internet access in rural Kenya??) or who didn't call, which is so ridiculous because I have so many friends and family who love me no matter how many birthdays or special occasions I forget or can't be there for.  So, this year, I decided to take a different route.

I didn't have the best start.  I had asked the nurses to hold off calling me, but instead I spent all of Thursday night chasing nothing-calls.  After finishing my night shift on Friday morning, I went straight to my weekly surgical conference and then to a Long Island surgical conference for a poster competition.  I had brought a blanket with me, vainly thinking I could find a quiet lecture hall to sleep in, but instead spent the day camped out by my poster and trying to stave off my impending grumpiness.  I managed to get an hour or two of sleep Friday night, but then woke early Saturday morning to manage a patient who became so agitated and disoriented in the ICU that she tried to run out completely naked, as her oxygen saturation dropped to 70%.  By the time my sister called at 8 am for her annual early morning birthday call, the only response I could muster was "GAH, it's too early!!   TOO EARLY!!!  AT WORK!!!!  Call me later!!  GAAAAAH!!".  I had to call back later and apologize for being so cranky.

But once I came back and slept for a few hours, I felt like a totally new person.  My dad called to say that he had sent me flowers for my birthday, and my landlord confirmed that my birthday gift to me (a designer dress) had arrived at my apartment.  My boyfriend surprised me with a Kindle so that I could travel and read, which I am still so excited about that I'm having trouble naming it.  (The best I have come up with is Kenny the Kindle.  It needs some work.)  My best friend and her boyfriend called to sing me happy birthday (with the promise of helping me to download books for free).  And we're going out tonight for dinner and a movie, during which I plan to drink a terrific glass of wine and go to bed at a normal hour.

And so, I am breaking my streak.  It's happy birthdays from here on out =)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dumb and Dumber

Ah, yes.  The night float.  It's that special time of year when your only task is to keep-the-patient-alive-for-God's-sake.  The night float is what separates the men and women from the boys and girls, and this applies to both interns and nurses.  So, with great love for all of the amazing nurses who are truly super-competent (and save my ass generously and frequently), here is a list of the top five dumb and dangerous things I have observed the nursing staff doing.

1) Calling to find out about discharging a private patient, since the family was waiting to take him home. The nurse told me she couldn't find any of the paperwork, and that the family was getting very impatient.  When I came down to check, all of the paperwork was completed and paperclipped to the front of the chart, along with all of the prescriptions.  "Oh," was all she could say.

2) Calling to put an IV line in a patient with massive edema, who already had a working line.  When I went to the bedside, the nurse insisted that the line was gone because she couldn't draw back.  A reasonable point, except that 2 different IV solution bags were still dripping away without any issue.  The nurse then pointed to the arm being swollen as a sign that the line was infiltrated.  Except that the patient was swollen all over. As a bonus point, she had refused to try the line herself.

3) Calling to visit a patient who cut himself shaving, and had unstoppable bleeding.  I asked the nurse to tear off a piece of toilet paper and stick it onto the cut, and hold pressure while I walked over, imagining a massive torrent of blood gushing out of the patient's face.  When I got there, I discovered an extremely loose ball of toilet paper marginally taped to the patient's quizzical face.  I tore off a tiny corner and stuck it directly on the 1/2 mm wound, then held pressure for 2 min, and found the bleeding to have magically stopped.  I walked away wondering why the nurse hadn't thought of that, since how to stop a shaving cut is something I learned from my dad, not something I learned in the trauma bay.

4) Tapping me on the shoulder every two minutes to ask about how much insulin to give a patient whose blood sugar was 457.  This is a reasonable question, except that I was pushing on the chest of a patient who was coding at the moment.

5) Removing the saturation monitor from an acutely ill patient.  I was called to the bedside of an end-stage AIDS patient for severe respiratory distress.  The patient already had dementia, so he couldn't tell us what was wrong, but he was breathing at an extremely fast rate, and only saturating 75% on the monitor.  I increased the oxygen flow rate as high as I could, then told the nurse to keep a strict eye on the monitor while I stepped out to call my senior medical resident about the situation.  When I came back, the monitor was gone and the patient was breathing even worse.  I asked her in a panic about the monitor, and she told me that she had given the nurse's aide permission to take the monitor away and use it to check vitals on the other patients on the floor.  The kicker was that every other patient on this floor was hooked up to a ventilator machine, and therefore did not need an oxygen saturation monitor because the ventilator monitors that for you.  This patient wound up getting intubated because his respiratory failure was so severe.  He died a week later.