E.T. the alien physician
Today I got B+/B- for my report. If I were in school
again it would have been a disaster. I used to get A/A or
5/5 in our equivalent for all essays. I used to write for
cash later: an article here an article there – easy money. I
still do when I have time, describing my new life full of
stupid events. Just for my friends and relatives. Not for a
profit anymore. I’m paid enough to maintain a positive
balance on my debit card, I don’t have much time, and my
English sucks. Yep, it still sucks – our program director
gave me B+ for the content and B- for grammar and spelling
(didn’t I ran spellchecker twice?? I did! I did!). “Doctor
G, I disagree with…” – “Shut up and put all references in
the appropriate format”! – “Yeesss, maam” (clicking my
heels… ok, ok, shuffling in my shabby running shoes). Well,
hell – it was an autopsy report, and I am a
first-year-pathology-resident. The smallest bug in the whole
medical hierarchy…who makes inappropriate jokes and
comments… who is way too loud…who visits our chairman for
“disciplinary talks” on regular basis… It’s like
“back-to-school-Groundhog-Day-style game”. “What kind of a
resident are you??” – “Apparently, a bad one”. But you know
what? No complaints, folks. You did see me on the interview
whole day long. You should have known better. I didn’t lie
in my CV. Probably I exaggerated a bit in one of the letter
of reference: “She shines with the humility” – here we go,
here is the humility… You knew what to expect when I came to
the drug screening in my favourite T-shirt: “I am not an
alcoholic, I am a drunk. Alcoholics to-go-meeting”. It’s my
sister’s present, and I haven’t seen her for two years…
“Which illicit substances do you use?” – asked a nurse.
“Nothing illegal maam. Only things you can buy in a
drug-store”. They cleared me somehow that time.
Funny, but nobody is yelled at as frequently as me. When our program director is not in the mood (which happens almost every week), the rest of us play “duck and cover game”. “Helen, come here quickly – she is having a fit again”. And here I come: you can shout at me, Dr. G – I’ll be a lightening rod for today. And she does… “No more questions!!! You remind me of my teenage kids!! I have to deal with them every damn day!!!” And you remind me of my dad, Dr. G… I’ve almost learned not to argue and not to ask questions in inappropriate moments. Do you think it helped? Not at all: “If I ever EVER see THAT face again, your residency is over!!! AND I MEAN THIS!!!” Ok, next time I’ll show up in a gas mask… “You’ll be reading this chart for ONE HOUR and then I want to see the exact dates of hospitalisations, the procedures, the complications in chronological order. OFF YOU GO!!” At least no push-ups, thanks for that. A patient spent 4 months in 6 different hospitals… In order to go through “the chart” one needs a set of maps, a GPS and a couple of medical dictionaries… Nevertheless, I was done in 45 minutes. “Wow, look at that table! She did it so comprehensively!” I guess I’m still in the pay-roll only because sometimes I can do things properly, and there are rare moments when I’m able to produce a comprehensive answer at the conference. Besides, there are sane attendings in my department who cover my *** on regular basis.
There are rare moments in my residency life when everything seems to be just fine. Seems to be… Till the next meeting with the PD… “This is the last warning for everyone! If I get another complain, some of you will go back to Canada (it’s not me) and some of you will go… I don’t know where…let’s say, home!” (It’s me:)). The problem is, I don’t know anymore where my home is. Honestly, I’ve never known. We moved a lot when I was a kid. I changed 6 schools; I used to live with my parents and my sis in one small room full of boxes with our stuff. What’s the reason to unpack? We are moving again in 6 months. I kept moving on my own later on. When I bought my first (and probably the last) apartment, I haven’t done any renovation. What for? It’s temporarily; I am planing on going abroad. Funny, but I call “home” any place I stay more than one night. “Let’s go home, we are drunk as Skunk” – meaning: it’s time to return to our tent in a campground or to our dorm room in a hostel. (BTW, Skunk is a good friend of mine). Nothing has changed in the US-of-A. I had a “home” in Washington DC for one month. I stayed with my close friends in Maryland repeatedly, and even provided enough proofs of the residency to get my SSN and my jeep registered. I still drive with Maryland tags… “Guys, cover me for one hour – I am driving home, to Maryland” – “Bye, guys, I’ll see you in one week. It’s time for me to drive home to Pittsburgh”. Pittsburgh is “just for a while” too. In three years I’ll have to move for a fellowship elsewhere. In four years I am moving again… to Australia or New Zealand… or, probably, Canada, which “is not a real country anyway” as my new friends like to sing. For how long? Who knows… And what will be my next destination afterwards? Who knows…
I don’t know anymore what my real name is. It’s spelled differently in three driver’s licenses I have. Ok, the Canadian one is not real. It says “driving license” on the front and “fake for 15 usd on-line” on the back. But I used it successfully as a state ID for almost half a year. It worked really nice in bars and pubs (they still card me, can you believe?). I used my national license for driving, and the cops were smart enough to give me tickets and scare me with points. (I can write whole article about my police encounters in different states – most of them had a happy end). If you drive with a non-american license, the points don’t matter. It’s like in “Whose line is it anyway” – to keep the show going. A cop pretends to punish me, I pretend to be scared – we play our parts as good as we can. I even attended a court session once, got some money back and got rid of mysterious points. “I’ve made my statement, Your Honor, and I have nothing more to add”. A magical word “doctor” works in the US too?! Why didn’t you tell me before?! I promised not to speed without a reason (I didn’t deceive them - I always have an excuse). Sure, I’ll get a local license this month… I kept flunking my driving test repeatedly till I learned how to drive a car with automatic transmission 25 miles/hr in a work zone and how to stop on “stop” signs. Thanks to Sarah who sacrificed her brand new “Mazda” not mentioning her time. It took us about 6 months…
BTW, speaking about “Whose line” – I played “two-line-vocabulary” game with my favourite attendings successfully. My lines were “I don’t know” and “Is it in the board exam?” It worked just fine: I was left alone for whole day with the diagnosis of “idiot”. Well, one of them smelled a rat but I dispelled his doubts.
I am still wondering, how long I’m gonna last? The annual evaluation is in 3 days… By chance, I saw a paper with our names and comments… Good residents got “Ok”and “Good job”; some of us were marked as “marginal” but guess who has a whole paragraph under the last name? “What are you staring at?? Pay attention at what I say!!” – Yes, maam, am sorry… Nope, am not:). And they know it:). But I survived for almost a year, and what a year it’s been! A trip to Key West with my best friend… medieval festival with my friends from Maryland… night snowboarding with Sarah and Malcolm… trips to Moscow, London and Canada… a poster “wanted for furniture tossing” made by my residency buddies after “Sarah’s moving weekend”… These stupid details and small events worth a year of yelling, screaming and balancing on the edge… Good luck to everyone, and I hope you’ll enjoy your residency life as much as I do!