poured out before bed
The air is brisk with a hint of summer as I sidle up to the cancer center learning tower, resigned to a long day of lectures. It’s our very first day of didactics on the internal medicine clerkship, so I’ve dressed professionally, just to be on the safe side. No one wants to be the one to break the unstated lecture dress code – different for each clerkship – that first fateful day.
When I step off the elevators, a handful of fellow students sits in the hall, waiting for the conference room to clear of it’s first am event. A few nervous persons are bemoaning their choice of jeans or shorts as they swim in a quiet sea of business casual, declaring their intent to inhabit the middle rows for safety.
The conference room trickles empty and we choose the seats we will inhabit for the rest of the morning and a goodly chunk of the afternoon. It is 7:55. We chat until 8:30 before there is the audible shuffle of multiple students flipping out schedules to be sure we’ve come to the correct place. Yep. 8am, Liver Test Interpretation, conference room G. No new emails to suggest deviation from that schedule.
We elect a student to call the clerkship coordinator to see what’s (not) shaking. There is no response. It is now 9am. No one leaves. That would be unprofessional.
At 9:15 the clerkship coordinator wanders in.
“Oh hey, guys,” she drawls nonchalantly. “Didn’t you hear? Lectures were moved back to 9:45 today.”
“Where should we have heard that?” the gentleman sitting next to me asks.
The coordinator shrugs. “Oh I thought your attendings might tell you.”
We look around the room. The students present work with no less than 30 different attendings, many of them at different sites off-campus.
“Were they emailed about this?” a girl behind me asks.
“No,” responds the coordinator. “But Dr. Hepato should be here soon. Thanks for waiting.” She trips from the room.
“Seriously?” someone mutters from the back.
Soon it is 10.
Then it is 10:15.
10:30 makes an appearance. Someone calls up the coordinator again. Again, no answer.
The debate concerning leaving begins. No one wants to waste time sitting in the stuffy classroom, but no one wants to leave lest there be lectures in the works.
When 11:00 scoots in someone’s pager goes off.
He gags, eyeing the text page, then stands to read it aloud.
“Due to multiple unforeseen circumstances, our AM academic day is cancelled. PM lectures will start at one. Please return to your clinical sites until then.”
There is a collective gasp. 75% of us are dressed appropriately, but we were not expecting to go to our sites today – it wasn’t on the schedule. We don’t have our white coats, our stethoscopes, our patient scut sheets. We don’t even have lunches, as these were to be provided. And many of us live in directions opposite our rotation sites, meaning a drive home to get the necessary things, a longer drive to our sites, then another drive back to campus for afternoon lectures. To say nothing of noontime traffic or the parking nightmare for students at most sites.
There is silence as we process. Suddenly comes a barrage of This is ridiculous’es and What the what’s from around the room.
A soft spoken gentleman stands and gives a nod. “I’ll call Ms. Sheila and let her know of our concerns.” He commences a polite conversation with the coordinator regarding the time (now 11:05), and how returning to our clinical sites for what will amount for most to a half hour or less may not be the best use of our time. Sitting just a seat away from him, I hear much of the catty and defensive other end of the conversation. My annoyed inner voice converses silently back.
Well, med school is unpredictable. (Ya think?) You need to learn to adapt. (Sigh.) Your life as a doctor will also be unpredictable. (Oh, really?) And you need to have respect for the time I and the doctors put into your education. We try hard not to waste your time, but things come up. (Insert fart sound here.) It is unprofessional to question a clerkship coordinator’s decisions. (Wah wah.) Let your fellow students know I am paging your seniors to expect you to be in soon. And we will see you all back here at one.
Mr. Polite relays her message in a much more – well, polite – fashion. We grumblingly gather our bags and hightail it to the door.
We wouldn’t want to be unprofessional.