I have been called a lot of names while caring for patients in the emergency department. Many of them are too rude to repeat here and have been hurled at me by people who were chemically impaired. I always ignore these insults.
Even in 2015, I am still sometimes called a hippie. I am never sure if that is because of my ponytail, my turquoise necklace or my general, California demeanor. I usually ignore this as well, since it also feels like an insult.
I have also been called a couple of other names I would like to share with you. They were both uttered by psychotic patients, and I presume nothing offensive was meant by either.
One night, a patient suffering from mania was put on the gurney in the hallway right across from where I sit at the computer. As is typical of manic patients, she was hyper and talked constantly. I ordered something to calm her down while she waited to go to psychiatry.
Waiting on the gurney, she was unable to sit still or stay quiet. She talked constantly and addressed herself to anyone who passed by. After all of her concerns had been addressed, everyone just kind of had to ignore her, in order to get anything else done.
The first several times she called, “Hey, Doctor…!” I stopped what I was doing and addressed her concerns. Eventually, I also had to ignore her.
When I stopped responding to her, she just escalated. Soon, she was hollering, at the top of her voice, “Hey, Doctor! Hey Doctor! Hey Doctor!” over and over again.
When I still didn’t respond, she started hollering, “Hey, Doctor Yeast Infection! Doctor Yeast Infection! Doctor Yeast Infection…!” You can imagine the effect that had on the department as she hollered my title over and over again at the top of her voice. This continued until she finally got tired of yelling or the medication had some effect on her, though she was still hollering out once in a while when she was escorted to psychiatry.
The other notable name was also uttered by a mentally ill person. I was, again, sitting at the computer. I recognized that a bit of a ruckus was developing nearby as a patient approached a resident (doctor in training) and was talking in an aggressive and agitated manner.
The nurse told me the patient had already been seen by another doctor and was discharged. She was being escorted out to the waiting room, when she saw the resident and approached her, wanting to file a complaint. As the nurse and the resident tried unsuccessfully to get her to settle down, I felt a need to intervene as I am, essentially, the captain of the ship.
I had some trouble getting the lady to stop talking to my resident and recognize that I was the one she needed to talk to. Eventually, she turned to me and, rather than look at my face, looked at my name badge. Then, she said, “Shut up, Doctor Diaper Pants,” and walked out, talking only to herself.
I have addressed in this blog several times the conflict I face when mentally ill people do things that are funny. Sometimes, they are really funny. It is very hard to not laugh when someone calls you “Doctor Yeast Infection” or “Doctor Diaper Pants.” But, recognizing the patient is talking that way because of her illness, I immediately feely a conflict that prevents me from really laughing and enjoying the mirth. It is so funny and yet so sad at the same time.
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Being an ER doctor sounds a lot like being the perpetual parent of really badly-behaved children who never grow up. So, I suppose that if being a parent helps perfect your character, being a physician must turn you into a saint.
By the way, Tad, Rob Rivera died April 1 (of cancer).
super funny!!! needed this for our super slow night!