Continuing our series of stories from vet school here, though I do start to worry that these are a bit dated. I mean, they’re over twenty-five years old now! So, if anyone reading has fresh, new stories from vet school to tell, please send them my way! Though older, I am still hip and with-it and have a Spacebook page! And if you’d like to read more in this series, check here and here.
To borrow a GRE analogy: Finals week is to stress what atomic warfare is to nuclear winter. The Mr. Hyde part of personalities comes to the fore and it’s truly amazing that the homicide rate doesn’t spike during this time. I only bring this up to explain that we do things during this time that we wouldn’t (maybe) do at any other time.
Our hematology class spanned two quarters. It was an epic! It was Beowulf, the Iliad, AND the Odyssey without the exciting battles but with just as much reading. We were in the final stretch and I think everyone was looking forward to not having to look at anymore purple/pink slides of amorphous shapes. So, it’s understandable when you wake up at 8:40, the hematology final’s at 9:00, it takes you about 25 minutes to get to school, that the first word out of your mouth would rhyme with “duck”.
That’s the way it was with my classmate who bolted from her residence and tore off down the road leaving small mammals cringing and scurrying in her path. Reaching the freeway in record time, she allowed momentum to plummet her car down the entrance ramp. Yet, another car, doing a Goldilock’s maneuver (not too fast, not too slow) forced her to decelerate rapidly, a flurry of scandalous phrases flowing fluently from her lips.
When she got on the freeway, she zeroed in on the car that had cut her off, speeding up on its left side. Once alongside it, she raised a dainty middle-finger in the universal symbol of agitation, glanced over at the driver in the other car who was looking over at her, only to see that it was the hematology professor. She shrunk into her seat while simultaneously flooring the accelerator. To this day she doesn’t know if he had recognized her or not.
Take home message: Just when you think your stress plate is full, you’ll find a way to pile it higher.
This was the hierarchy of small animal medicine: Clinicians, residents, technicians, kennel staff, random invasive rodentia, then veterinary students. The daytime technicians were friendly enough, but the night-time ones, like capricious gods, could not be pleased. I always thought there was some supernatural reason that they could only work at night. It went a long way toward explaining their attitude toward us warm-blooded creatures. They were very exacting in their wants. We had to write out patient orders for what we needed them to do during the evening hours. That is, if we actually were able to finish our work and go home at night.
I received a call at 12:30 AM once that went like this:
“You didn’t sign your orders,” a voice informed me with no preliminary greeting.
Still dazed from lack of sleep, I asked, perplexed, “You want me to come back in and sign them?”
“No. I just wanted to let you know that you need to sign your orders in the future.”
The next day she left a note with my case stating the same thing……..as if I’d forget.
Another student had an even better early morning call. We wrote orders to encompass two days. Whoever performed one of the tasks was required to circle the time on the sheet. His orders were to have the dog be NPO at a certain time. Since he had still been at the hospital close to that time, he had gone ahead and removed the food and water bowls. About two hours after returning home (one hour and fifty-nine minutes into unconsciousness) he received a call.
“Did you remove the food and water from your patient?” a surly voice questioned.
Wondering why she didn’t just look in the cage to find the answer, he said, “Yes, I did.”
“You didn’t circle the treatment sheet.”
“So what? It’s obvious that the food and water was removed. What are you calling me about it for?”
“If you do a treatment, you’re supposed to circle and initial that YOU did it at that time.”
“Well, God forbid that the food and water was removed by someone else or was done at an unauthorized time,” he replied.
But, she had had her series of vaccines and was immune to sarcasm. “Just make sure that you circle and initial treatments that you do.”
The following day, he received a note appended to his treatment sheet reminding him, once again, to do just that. It quickly became apparent that these people needed a bit more fiber in their diet.
I joked about this issue in my speech at graduation. I made a (false) announcement to one of our class’ smartest students that they wouldn’t receive their degree until they initialed off on their patient’s last treatment sheet.
I think this, in part, is what makes me so resistant to adding too much paperwork into patient care. Because it seems so often that the paperwork then becomes more important than the patient care.