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The D-bomb. - Nobody wears a white coat any more... — LiveJournal
...a tribute to becoming a doctor.
The D-bomb.
B is a friend of mine. She is a physician, one of those brilliant and quirky women that I admire and enjoy spending time with. And B knows all about the D-bomb.
She will go out of her way to avoid dropping it, will actually take her conversational partner through a labyrinth of roundabout comments. Oh, I work in the medical field.

Because the D-word changes things.

I've been noticing it for a while - when I'd tell people I was a medical student, they would gush. Oh, you must be so smart! I could never be that smart! And I would shrug, smile bashfully, and reiterate my mantra of medical school. It has nothing to do with being smart. I'm just too stubborn to give up and too dumb to know when to quit. They would laugh. The never believed me.
I noticed it when we moved to our new town, after I graduated. We are "the young couple" in a neighborhood where children are grown and grandchildren are being born; our neighbors came over to meet us shortly after we unloaded the Penske yellow truck and settled in to survey the property. We got the young couple questions - do you have any kids, where did you move from, what brought you here? Oh, I answered, my job. And they asked what I did, with the sort of easy affability that people seem to have toward a couple young enough to be their children. And I said I was a resident, in family medicine, at $hospital.
And things changed.
They're just as friendly, just as good of neighbors, and the lady across the street still tells me I work too damn much every time she sees me, but there was a shift in their attitudes that day. And it came with the next thing anyone ever seems to say. Oh. You're a doctor...

There are the obligatory jokes to follow - everyone has a bruise or a wound or a sore finger that they laughingly display - and there is the obligatory discourse on what I want to do when I'm done with residency or what it means to be a resident at all - but things have changed, conversationally. The people I'm talking to have moved from a spot just a little higher on the social strata than I am (Established and middle-age trumps young and starting-out) to one notably lower (Doctor, lawyer, CEO trumps most standard professions) and they know it. There's a little less isn't-that-cute in their voices and their eyes, and it's because I'm a doctor.

The peds nurses call me Nykki and give me crap. The OB nurses sass everyone. The nurses on heart and vascular feed me wasabi dipping sauce. The medical floors call me Dr. B or they use my full last name, but you can always tell the ones who haven't worked with me - they're deferential, polite, respectful; it's "doctor" this and "excuse me, doctor", and they jump before I speak. The ones who know me will ask questions. I get respect from them, too, but it's an easy respect, mutual. They've learned to ignore the d-word.

I can walk into an exam room in my clinic and tell a mid-thirties woman with three children how to change her disciplinary style so that they listen to her, and her husband will call me later and thank me for lecturing her. I can ask my patients about their extramarital affairs, the quality of their sexual function, their bowel and bladder habits and their desire for anchovy pizza without being called nosy. I am a repository of more facts about more people than I ever wanted to know, and it extends outside the office.
At a house closing, the selling couple heard the D-bomb and told me all about his heart dysfunction and hospitalizations, how he was feeling, what medications he was on. At family gatherings, I am invariably asked to "take a look at this, could you?" I know about my neighbors' health problems because they told me even though I'm not their doctor. I have had my advice solicited on such various and diverse specialties as cardiology, general surgery, endocrinology, and oncology.
(Some of you, O Best Beloved, may recognize yourself in the above. Rest assured, I don't mind. I'm illustrating a point.)

When we were in Kaua'i, on the phone for the Red Cross, I called an area hospital. "This is Nykki with the Red Cross Kaua'i, I'm looking for some extra blankets for a group of potential refugees. Might you have any?" She put me on hold. I got tossed from person to person. Nobody seemed to know. Finally, someone hemmed and hawed. "What was your name again?"
This is Dr. B- with the Red... I didn't finish the sentence. I got my answer. No blankets, but a list of places to call. "Sorry, Doctor..."

It has real power, and it's easy to see how it could be intoxicating. I don't approve of the physicians who throw their titles around, but I think I'm beginning to understand.

now feeling:: thoughtful thoughtful

15 whispers echo . o O ( ... ) O o . whisper a word
jonquil From: jonquil Date: April 17th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
One of the most bizarre conversations of my life: "What do you do?" "Oh, I work at <famous computer company>." "Wow, you must be really smart."

From my *neurologist*. A guy with not only a medical education, but extensive post-grad work.

I suspect you'll use your power wisely and kindly.
waifofthenorth From: waifofthenorth Date: April 17th, 2006 09:47 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
Sometimes people are just lazy, but sometimes it helps to talk to someone who isn't your doctor about something that is bothering you...

My husband worked for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a while...now that impresses people! I'm still having trouble convincing people that he doesn't have an IQ of 200 or something, and that i'm even close to his equal intellectually (including me sometimes).
ashrie From: ashrie Date: April 18th, 2006 02:50 am (UTC) (etched in stone)


I found your blog through someone else's recommendation, and I've found your entries quite insightful. I'm aiming towards a medical career too, and so, reading up on the real-life experiences of someone who has "been through that" in terms of medical training is very inspiring indeed :)

Keep up the interesting entries. Do you mind if I added you?
ayradyss From: ayradyss Date: April 18th, 2006 10:25 am (UTC) (etched in stone)

Re: Hi

You're certainly welcome to add me! And hello back!

Any particular medical career in mind?
ashrie From: ashrie Date: April 18th, 2006 11:45 am (UTC) (etched in stone)

Re: Hi

Hopefully, if all goes to plan, I would like to end up as a child psychiatrist. First however, I'm working towards getting into med school... It'll be a while before I can specialize in any field so... ^^

*adds you* :)
clipdude From: clipdude Date: April 18th, 2006 03:38 am (UTC) (etched in stone)
I have this conversation all the time:

What do you do?
I'm a graduate student.
Oh, what do you study?
Oh, wow, you must be really smart. I hated math/failed calculus/can't add worth beans*.

*This is funny, because it's not like we sit around doing arithmetic all day.
rimrunner From: rimrunner Date: April 18th, 2006 04:09 am (UTC) (etched in stone)
People always say things like this because they don't actually know anything about what you do and haven't been taught how to ask conversationally. What they should of course say is something on the order of: "How fascinating. What's that like?"

Here's my version:

So what do you do?
I'm an academic librarian.
So, is that, like, cataloging?

To which the answer is, of course, no.
evilstorm From: evilstorm Date: April 18th, 2006 11:35 am (UTC) (etched in stone)
Right, I'll bite: what do you do in your studies?
clipdude From: clipdude Date: April 18th, 2006 03:29 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
At my current point in my studies, I try to understand the proofs of theorems, and try to gain insight into the connections between the ideas I'm studying. I am taking my oral preliminary exam early next month; after I pass (as I hope to do!), I will start trying to work on my own research, which would be proving new theorems.

The area of mathematics I'm studying is algebra, specifically, noncommutitive rings.
evilstorm From: evilstorm Date: April 18th, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
...Owmybrain. XD I am afraid that you'll have to add me to the crowds of people who go, "I have no sodding clue what that's about". It looks potentially interesting, but...I don't know, I think I shall have to look it up one day. *amused*

(Yes, am very noobish, still doing high school math. >___> XD Just curious, is all.)
coanteen From: coanteen Date: April 18th, 2006 05:17 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
I felt so strange about using "Dr" after I graduated...actually just before, when I was looking for an apt in the city where my residency would be. I avoided it and got shunted around like just another annoying student seeking accommodation in a university town.
I got over my feelings of awkwardness once I saw how much easier it was when I introduced myself as Dr so-and-so. It's silly that so much instant respect attaches to a job description, but I'm not about to ignore it if it's in my favor.

OTOH, I once made the mistake of telling my seatmate on a plane. Actually I told her I was studying, she kept prying, so I finally said medicine. Worst plane trip of my life, I've never has such a strong urge to stab someone in the throat. Closing my eyes, turning my head away and pretending to sleep didn't shut this woman up!
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 18th, 2006 06:38 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
My dear, with the title has come change. Since you and I graduated from college, i've noticed it in little bits and pieces... some of it is probably just a result of time, but I have a feeling that a lot of it is the burden that the new title places on you. Or maybe, the burdens that come along with that title. The becoming...
ayradyss From: ayradyss Date: April 18th, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
Ah. And now I'm curious.
fortuna_juvat From: fortuna_juvat Date: April 18th, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
Wonderful, wonderful post. I pimped you in my other journal, inked_caduceus, so I sincerely hope you don't mind.

I wanted people to read about the real, unexpected parts of medicine instead of my occasional blatherings. :)
bradycardia From: bradycardia Date: April 19th, 2006 03:23 pm (UTC) (etched in stone)
I'm a week away from finishing medical school, so I should start experiencing this soon. I'm not sure I'm prepared for the responsibility that goes with the title. But at least it will be a change from the usual reaction to "Medical Student" ... "Trinity" my university which is that they start backing away slowly. As you say Oh, you must be so smart! which translates to "And now I can't talk to you anymore!"
15 whispers echo . o O ( ... ) O o . whisper a word