Bedside Lessons – 9. Doctor to Doctor Part 1

Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

Doctors are humans too and can become just as unwell as anyone else. When a doctor is assessing another doctor it can feel a bit strange. You might be assessing someone who has had the same training as you have, who may have worked as a doctor for much longer than you have yourself.

I’m usually calm in my approach to patients, well at least that’s what it looks like on the surface. I remember being particularly nervous one day when I was in my second year of being a doctor, as I had to admit one of the Professors that had taught me during medical school. One of the nicer guys who was always generous with his knowledge and time, always trying to nurture the next generations of doctors. He was not well and needed a complete work-up.

I started to see him and the usual procedure involved inserting an IV line and taking off some blood tests. I was about to stab one of Prof’s veins when the head of the department, a female professor, who had also been one of my teachers walked in and watched the proceedings intently. The needle went in, blood was taken, and then my patient Prof number one turned grey and looked like he was about to faint.

I thought to myself, “Oh great, I’ve just made one head of department collapse in front of another head of department.” “He had such a promising career up until that point, and then suddenly disappeared off the face of the Earth, never to be seen again…” House officer keen on a career in Palliative Care, suddenly required Palliative Care – Headline of the next day’s paper.

Vasovagal syncope is likely what happened – A painful stimulus can cause some people to faint. This can happen to some people when needles are inserted, and that was likely what happened to Prof as I drew his blood. He quickly recovered but needed to lie down. An ECG was performed and everything checked out okay. Patient’s pulse initially had been fast, but had settled down once he had rested.

My pulse on the other hand remained high until the blood results and other tests came back indicating that our patient was okay. My blood pressure remained high for a few more hours, and I could’ve used a lie down myself, but I had to wait until much later that night.

Thankfully Prof was okay, and the young doctor was able to continue his career.

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