“What the F**K are you doing, calling me at 2AM? You are a doctor, take care of the damn patient yourself.” I had steeled myself for the verbal onslaught. I knew it would come. It always did.

“With all due respect sir, this patient’s enzymes are climbing. He has an ST elevation on his EKG and active chest pain that is not responding to morphine or nitroglycerin. Now, as you know, I am just a family practice resident. You are the cardiologist on call. I am begging for your help here because I don’t know what else to do to for this man.” Sometimes meek supplication helped.

“God Damn it!” I held the phone receiver away from my head while he yelled that expletive and the several that followed after. The pain from the verbal attack on my tympanic membrane made me wince.

When the yelling had died down I put the phone back to my ear.

“So does that mean you are coming in?” I said cautiously, trying to keep all trace of emotion from my voice. (Do not show anger. Do not show hope. Do not show relief. Do not show fear.)

“No, I am not coming in, you f***er!”

I sighed.

“Then tell me what I need to do for him until 6AM so that I can document in the chart that I spoke to you and this is what you recommended in lieu of coming in yourself to cath him.”



“Fine. I’m coming. You goddamn better be there waiting for me…”

“Oh, yes SIR. I will be right here. Waiting. Tha-…” The phone was slammed down on the other end, cutting off my reply.

He did eventually show up.

Several hours later, as I was checking on the patient after his heart catheterization and the angioplasty that opened up his blood vessel, he and his wife gushed and gushed about how wonderful the cardiologist was that saved his life. They were so impressed with his bedside manner and his skillfulness as a physician.

I seethed.

Do you even know what it took to get that prima donna here to sully his hands for you?

I said nothing.

Patients deserve to believe their physicians are heroes. Because some actually are…


48 thoughts on “Gargoyle

  1. Such a shame there is a law against slapping people. πŸ™‚ Sometimes people do deserve it though, don’t they. I mean you are allowed to slap a baby when it’s born to make it cry. Alive and well. Yippee. Not considered child abuse on the first day. However when is it considered too old to slap? 60? Still alive and well. Horray! Oh so sorry. Just checking. Could have checked the pulse first, silly me. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had someone tell me before that they didn’t care their doctor was an arrogant bastard (their words) as long as he knew what he was doing and took care of them. I don’t quite understand why doing a great job leads one to believe they should be arrogant. The doctor needs these sick folks as much as the sick folks need him. Who else is he going to build that pedestal on top of?

    Personally I adore my doctor and have been very blessed with competence and compassion and humility from my docs.


  3. As a RN I remember similar encounters with doctors. Including being told off in front of patients and other doctors for something I was not personally responsible for. Which really infuriated me because I did not point out the MDs mistakes to him in front of his ( usually him in those days) patients. And believe me, doctors make mistakes too. What was really funny and I don’t know if you find this true as well, I always found the doctors who were always abusive were the ones who were the worst doctors. I also would have to think about it before I called a doctor during the night.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is still like this with some specialities. If I want a CT at 3am I have to beg, grovel, insist and sometimes threaten them with “ok then, I am writing in the notes that I think as the surgeon on call having seen and assessed this patient that they need a CT, but that you as the radiologist who is at home in bed think they can wait until 9am”. It usually works, they mutter “for fuck sake KBW” slam the phone down and 20 minutes later a porter comes for the patient. It’s only failed once, the patient died and I now have a vendetta against the man who refused the scan, but he was heavily criticised for not scanning her in the aftermath.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Are Doctors Worth Their Salaries? | Behind the White Coat

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