I’m thankful that medicine is a small world

This past week was one of those weeks looming ahead of me that I was already dreading as I entered into it. I was to be working through another holiday and following a string of nights, and I would have a quick turnaround into a mid-shift. As a nocturnist by choice, I rarely work mornings or mid-shifts. I find the nights busy but also less intrusive — i.e., less administrative personnel around which allows us to have a bit more freedom. We have our own ebb and flow at nights, usually extremely busy when we arrive, and it tends to slow as the night turns into morning and dawn. That being said, we don’t often get to mingle with rest of the hospital staff, and usually, our calls to said staff are short and sweet. In that, we just need to admit a patient to your service; please be kind, take them off our hands, off our tracker and move them up to the floor. Hopefully, admitting the patient without getting much resistance from the inpatient hospital medicine team.

Medicine is a small world, and many of us still keep communication open via social media but often many of our interactions with those who have come before us in training or who were former attendings — that we have gained valuable knowledge from previously — are often sparse. So this past Tuesday, the day after Labor Day when I needed a consult on a patient with new-onset seizures, I was happy to learn that the neurologist on call was an attending whom I had worked with previously. Yes, low and behold it was a former attending of mine. And while I knew he was at this facility, we hadn’t really had the opportunity to speak to each other for a consult previously. I had not yet spoken with him on this particular day as the resident initially gave him a report of the patient’s history and discussed his potential treatment plan with him over the phone. The neurologist, Dr. B, stated that he would come by to see the patient in the ED at the end of his clinic day. When the resident relayed this information to me, I just couldn’t help but feel over the moon about seeing this attending — now a colleague once again.

It was a busy, busy day in the ED, lots of patients as usual after a long holiday where doctor’s offices had been closed the day prior and were unable to obtain an appointment that day. As the day progressed, I kept asking if Dr. B had come by because I surely didn’t want to miss seeing him. After a few hours, I was informed that he was in the patient’s room. As I didn’t want to disturb him during his assessment, I paced the hallway a few times to try and ensure that I could meet with him. It seemed as if this was not meant to be as I was taken away a few times to other emergencies. When I was able to return to this particular pod, I glanced into the patient’s room and noted that Dr. B was no longer there. I was a bit heartbroken and disappointed as I had wanted to see this attending that I had admired and who had been an integral part of my training. I went back to my station and continued to see patients, and an about half an hour later I looked into the resident conference room and was surprised to find Dr. B dictating his notes. I snuck up behind him, and he turned as I drew near and with a big smile, we greeted each other. We hugged, and I kissed his cheek, and we talked a bit about what we had been doing since we last saw each other. We commented on how well we each looked, and while he has definitely had aged his smile, wit, and extensive knowledge was still quite sharp. I again valued his input and his ability to help in the care of this patient.

I loved how he spoke to the resident and engaged him in the treatment plan, how he educated him in the diagnosis, and I longed for the days of yesteryear when I was such resident. Well not really, none of us would do that (residency) again, but I remembered the lectures, rounding and morning reports fondly. I soaked up his warmth and knowledge once again, and it felt like home. We took a selfie, and I shared the photo on my social media and as expected the number of likes and comments from previous residents and staff at other facilities where we had worked together was vast. Medicine is a small world. We often feel like we live in a small bubble of our current environment but now and then we are reminded of how tiny the universe is and how fortunate we are to have met and been mentored by some outstanding physicians that have come before us. As an attending myself, I can only hope that some of my own previous residents think as fondly of me as I do of my predecessors. We all travel and move for various reasons and often we may not get the opportunity to say goodbye to everyone that we may have worked with. Sometimes; however, we are blessed enough to find each other again at conferences or other facilities, and it is like a reunion of family. It truly is that special. I was truly blessed this week, this Labor Day week. I was blessed with work, family, friends and old attendings.

Maria Perez-Johnson is a pediatrician.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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