It’s the beginning of the academic medical school year, and a new flock of energetic medical students has arrived. It is evident as they eagerly call the attending to “notify” them of a sick case that was “coming to the ward” having never seen the patient.
It was no biggie, this time. Things were handled. But it was clear during the late-night phone conversation that the medical student hadn’t seen the patient, wasn’t aware of the entire medical history, and was sent as the “messenger.”
Well, we don’t shoot the messenger.
But there’s also an important principle that should be followed when communicating with different members of the medical team involved in a patient’s care:
Make ‘em look good.
If you are a medical student, make your resident look good on rounds. Know the history, medications, lab results, and the patient’s chief complaint that day. If you do, he’ll make sure you look good.
If you’re a resident, make your fellow look good on rounds. Teach the students. Check the patient yourself if needed. Give the fellow the pertinent items to be addressed that day, and make sure they happen. If you do, your fellow will make you look good.
If you’re a fellow, make your attending look good on rounds. Guide the resident. Come prepared, having communicated with the team, understand the next plan of action, and implement it. If you do, your attending will make you look good.
If you’re an attending, make sure the nurse looks good. Point out the good things he or she did overnight, guide them on the items that need attention, and listen to their concerns. If you do, your nurse will make you look good.
If you’re a nurse, make sure the patient looks good. Respond to their calls, check the medications not once but twice, ask why the dinner tray arrived late, and help brush the patient's hair and teeth. If you do, the patient will make sure the whole hospital looks good.
That’s the way it works.
Best of luck to all of you.
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