Why being a medic is a bit like being Molly Ringwold from Pretty In Pink

I’m always amazed by how acceptable it is for people in healthcare to be so rude to each other. Yesterday I had a rather spectacular run in with a consultant, who swore so prodigiously at me for no reason, I was almost impressed, rather than upset.

Consultants in hospitals vary enormously – some of them really are on the golf course. But they’re more likely to be in a clinic, or in a meeting, or teaching somewhere. They’re much less likely to be on your ward. Which means that you have to make all your decisions without your boss, in the hope that you’re making the right ones. And then once a week, they grandly parade around the patients, sweeping aside every plan you made, and replacing it with their own, instantaneously tripling the amount of work you need to do that day.

But the scariest beasts in a hospital (aside from neurosurgeons) are consultant radiologists. These are the men and women that govern the fate of your patient. Each day you have to turn up, and hang outside their consulting room, until they deign to see you. Then, like Oliver asking for more, you get on your knees and beg them to do the necessary scan on your patient.

 More often than not, like Mr Bumble, the beadle, they bellow loudly about how there isn’t enough time or money to do your scan, and send you away to explain to your senior exactly why Mrs J isn’t going to get her abdominal ultrasound in the foreseeable future. Whereupon the senior sends you back to ask again. You can see where this ends. It’s not pretty. And you basically feel like you’re back at school being shouted at by the headmaster. Great.

Quite a lot of medicine is like being in high school. The jock’s role is taken by the orthopaedic surgeons, who flex their muscles and wink at nurses as they hammer some old dear’s new hip into place, while boasting about their recent success on the rugby field, or the amount they managed to drink on the latest mess outing. You have your geeks (the neurologists) who know everything there is to know about the tiniest details of medicine, and are flabbergasted when your brain doesn’t contain the same amount of knowledge. The role of the princesses is taken by the dermatology department who are, almost without exception, drop dead gorgeous, and flawless of skin. Which must make their scrofulous patients feel really good about their flakey and inflammed psoriasis. The anaesthetists are the intelligent stoners, who still come top of the class, despite doing no work and getting high on fumes all day.

Just like school, mating rituals take place at Mess dos (just a name for a doctor piss up – usually organised for the last friday of the month after payday), teaching sessions (note passing has been surpassed by cheeky texts), and in the canteen. The sixth form common room and the doctors’ mess are basically exactly the same thing. Down to the broken toaster, furred up kettle, and pool table with half the balls missing. And walking into the Mess as a new girl basically feels exactly the same as walking into the common room for the first time. The cool kids are playing pool, the geek is on the computer, and you desperately scan the sea of faces, looking for someone you might recognise, before settling in a corner by the TV, trying to look like you’ve got mates by pretending to check texts on your phone.

What I’m hoping, is that when I finally qualify as a GP and leave the hospital, it’ll be a bit like graduating, and I can leave all this behind. But I’ve got a feeling that GP surgeries might be like village schools, where some are centres of excellence and innovation, staffed by dedicated teachers and students. But others are at constant risk of closing down due to staff absence and snail-like torpor, with about the same level of high-powered brain work going on. Fingers crossed I get into the former, by dint of my parents living in the right postcode, or attending church with sufficient frequency. Time, as always, will tell.


2 thoughts on “Why being a medic is a bit like being Molly Ringwold from Pretty In Pink

  1. This is only true when you’re an FY1. Radiologists quickly become pathetic when you point out that they are simply an imaging service and that their clinical judgement is inferior as they haven’t actually seen the patient at the stage of refusal. The benefit of doing the scan is to inform the team and to put the care of the patient first – therefore they simply have no right to withhold the scan. I usually ask them to make an entry in the notes justifying their position, and explain that I will be making an entry to the effect that I believe they are causing potential harm to the patient by refusing a necessary scan.

    • I do appreciate that they have a job to do by being the gatekeeper to the US/ct/mri scanner. But it would be nice if they could sometimes give you a rueful grin while saying no…

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