Scalpel's Edge

A surgeon's notes


We had new interns start last week. Our hospital system is arranged so that interns (first year out of medical school) start three weeks before all the rest of the medical staff change their rotations.

This changeover period is stressful. Everyone is on edge and the hospital starts to grind. We transition from interns who have worked eleven and a half months and are at the peak of their game to interns who have worked five days and are unsure if they should prescribe paracetomol.

As a corollary to this, everyone in a more senior position forces themselves to become more tolerant. There is suddenly no place for teaching lessons through snappishness. The correct answer to a confusing referral is always “I will come an see your patient.” The grumbling becomes subaudible. The teeth grinding less so.

This amnesty lasts as long as our heads don’t explode. Not sure how long that is. One of my anaesthetic colleagues had to resite five IV cannulas today on patients covered with a morse code of band aids and bruises. I had a doctor spell out her own name for me instead of the patient’s and I didn’t laugh. We can only keep the intracranial pressure down for so long.

To the interns of 2011: Happy holidays. Congratulations on the start to a new year. May your futures be successful and your prospects bright. And may you also become registrars one day and truly know how much we miss you.

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