“What’s her name?”
This thought crosses my mind as I head towards my patient’s door. It’s 5:45 am and I’m dragging. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to walk into a stranger’s room and feel them up (not truly, but checking for breast tenderness and discharge as well as vaginal exams seems an awful lot like it – especially at this ungodly early hour).
“Shit. I can’t remember. Can’t go calling her senora 4104 now, can I?”
I head back to the census sheet, taking a few extra moments to talk with my friend. I then head back to the door. Stopping tentatively at the door, hand poised to knock and shatter the stillness within the room.
“Goddammit! What’s her name again!?”
This plays out more often than you would like to think. I’ve read the chart, understood what transpired overnight, know where she and her newborn child stand amongst the new admissions, and know exactly what phrases to employ in order to get my SOAP note complete. I just can’t remember her name.
This is medical education. Patients begin to loose their identities to us as we try and get through rotations alive. The pressures placed on our shoulders, already weighed down by the heaviness of our short white coats overloaded with multiple tools to assist our "brains", lend themselves towards our thought blocking. It's the only defense mechanism we have left.
Patients stop existing as people and become numbers, diseases, diagnoses, and procedures to be added to the ever growing patient encounter log in my right pocket. They’re just not people. That impedes my daily progress. That notion cannot be considered - it will delay me.
Why do you want to be a doctor? I can no longer answer this question without wondering if the reason(s) I had entered medical school have been completely abandoned; lost along the way during the inculcation of my medical knowledge. Maybe next year I’ll pick it back up and patients won’t be just a number. But I fear that this won't transpire. After all, I've got things to do and people (numbers) to see.