“How can I brighten your day?”

7 11 2012

All things considered, my chief resident on the trauma surgery service was fantastic.  I’ll call her Rebecca.  Definitely one of the good ones: tough, but a teacher; friendly and quick to laugh; very student-friendly, advocating—whenever a situation allowed—for students to be involved in patient care whenever possible.

When she had the trauma phone, which was easily the most dreaded phone to the surgical residents, Rebecca was always cheerful when she answered, regardless of her actual mood.  I love the way she answered the phone: “Good morning/afternoon/evening, you have reached [the hospital’s nickname], how can I brighten your day?”  It was laced with sarcasm, and everybody knew it, but I think the phrasing automatically left the people on the other end feeling a little better.  I am sticking that one in my back pocket for later.

She also referred to us, the medical students, as “The Med Studs.”  It made me chuckle J

One of my favorite things about Rebecca is that she possesses the leadership skills to keep her team—the residents, students, PAs, and even the attendings on occasion—on task and patient-focused by tapping into each person’s desire to do what was best for the patient and the care team rather than ruling with an iron fist like many with that kind of power choose to do.

The day she really earned my respect was fairly average, and the events did not involve me.

It was a very normal day in mid-July. The new interns were settling into the rhythm of the day-to-day, and the more senior residents were becoming more comfortable exercising their seniority.  The intern on my team, Katie, was scheduled to assist a surgery—nothing riveting, but slightly more interesting than taking out a gallbladder or appendix— when the 3rd-year resident on the team decided he wanted to do it.  So he said so. Not that he wanted to, but that he was going to.

Katie just stood there, looking disappointed but understanding.  I know how she felt.  It is very disappointing to have the prospect of doing something exciting yanked out from under you because of rank order.

Rebecca called him out.  She told him that no, he was not scheduled to assist in the surgery.  “It’s your morning to staff the clinic.  You know that.”  There wasn’t much he could say in his defense there.  His voice was toned down a notch when he pushed his case again.  “No, this is Katie’s case.  She is going to assist Dr. So-and-so, and you’re responsible for the clinic patients.”

I had never seen a chief resident defending an intern quite like that before.  So the 3rd-year walked away, and Rebecca turned to look at the rest of us (Katie, myself, and the other med student) and she said very clearly that Katie had every right to operate and told her that she needed to try to stick up for herself, challenging as it might be.

“Somebody fought for me when I was an intern,” she had said.  “And I’m going to speak up for you.”

She went on to say that, of course, if Katie screwed up, it would be her ass alone taking that paddle.

Like I said, she’s a fun one.

*Just in case I haven’t said it enough times, EVERY SINGLE name has been changed.  None of these names are attached to the real person mentioned in any of my posts.

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