I look forward to teaching our housestaff the basics of EKGs each year. Moments where I can leap from worker-bee clinician to the quiet confines of a lecture hall is rejuvenating. Seeing eyes widen as they grasp basic insights to the wealth of information contained in biologic signals even more so. So I carve some time at the beginning of each year with the chief residents to commit to this endeavor far in advance.
This year, I arrived a little early for my lecture with a stack of EKG’s, ready to bring down the screen, load the Powerpoint presentation, and collect my thoughts. Unlike most lecture days, the lecture hall door was closed when I arrived. I quietly cracked the door and peered in: there, in their new, carefully pressed white coats, was a sea of residents. I was elated, expecting that attendance at this lecture would be especially high since I already had a captive audience.
So I closed the door quietly and paced in the halls waiting for the lecture before mine to conclude.
The nearby secretaries noticed me and politely said hello and I, in turn, smiled and acknowledged their greeting. I grabbed a quick cup of coffee from the coffee pot and sipped the nectar in my quiet moment of reverie before class.
But something was askew. The secretaries seemed a bit uncomfortable.
“Doctor Fisher? Oh, I’m so sorry, the lecture hall is being used today for our annual Transitional Residency program review. Let me see if I can find another lecture hall for you.”
She logged on her computer and scanned the available spaces. She clicked and clicked and clicked.
“Well, there is a room on the fifth floor…. Um, maybe not. I see there’s only 15 chairs in there… Let me keep trying.”
“Thanks so much,” I said.
About this time, the doors from my previously-arranged lecture hall opened and a sea of smiling residents poured out from the room. Some headed to the washroom, others checking their beepers. Others appeared to be heading back to the wards. I was puzzled.
I glanced in the lecture hall to see several well-dressed women sitting before a pile of 3-ring binders full of papers, one of which was opened. They chatted with each other, occasionally giggling, but very professionally so. There behind them was a tray of uneaten donuts and other treats and a coffee dispenser neatly arranged on a tray behind them. Boy, those looked tasty! I smiled as I thought to myself: “No wonder their attendance was so good.”
A few moments later, one of the Chief Residents came to me with his tail between his legs and apologized profusely. “I’m SO sorry, Dr. Fisher, we forgot to call you about this change of schedule!”
The poor guy. Sent with full flak jacket in place to take the hit. But I knew exactly how he felt as he tried to keep all the various clinical and administrative scheduling balls in the air.
“No problem,” I said. “We’ll do this another time.”
But as I walked back to my office, I couldn’t help but wonder what we’re creating as housestaff are corralled before bureaucrats who ask them how their residency is going while their own residency's EKG training was silently sabotaged.
It’s kind of like those uneaten donuts behind those well-dressed ladies: food for thought.