Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Training and Dating and Training

"...if you make your resident look bad, she'll torture you until you beg for your mama." Dr. Bailey, surgery resident, season I Grey's Anatomy. Or maybe she'll ask you out.

No matter how much they teach housestaff about boundaries and professionalism, the sad fact remains that-during your residency days-if you don't date someone from the hospital, you have little chance of dating at all. The hallowed, horny halls of Seattle Grace Hospital on Grey's Anatomy are full of resident-attending relationships. That's a pretty sticky pairing, and I only saw one during my three years of internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital. What was much more common was dating between fellow residents, residents and students, house staff and nurses, house staff and other hospital get the idea. After all, the hospital was full of reasonably educated, young, single-ish people, all conveniently under one roof.

We did occasionally make the effort to diversify our selection pool. Once in a blue moon I would go out to a club with one or two fellow residents and meet some of the local fare. We usually lied about our occupations and claimed to sell shoes at a department store, mindful that many folks had misconceptions about medical residents. Some guys automatically avoided us, expecting a superior attitude and surfeit of brainy wisdom. Others heard "doctor" and expected hefty incomes instead of the meager stipends we were paid. My forays into the real world were never productive. I would drink, dance, have fun with my girls, and go home alone.

So yes, I dated as others did. It was the early '80s, no one was on line, there was no Sunday afternoon speed dating, and the hospital was full of men. Men in hospital world were judged much like men on the outside. We evaluated looks, intelligence (yes, there was some variation-a smart monkey can memorize a good chunk of medical school curriculum), origins, and whether our call schedules matched. We considered whether this was a man that would push to spend the night but forget our name during lunch in the cafeteria or rounds on the ward. Most importantly, did he have any life going on besides the lengthy to-do list of daily patient care. None of us had time for big activities, but we could read, see a movie, talk about hobbies...

Once I developed a friendship with a student and we wound up dating for months. One thing that was perversely in his favor was his ability to understand that only a portion of our internal medicine teaching would help him in his future specialty. Once our offerings crossed that line, he politely excused himself to work on improving in his own specialty or having a healthy life. I was appalled that he didn't want to stay up all night watching a new onset diabetic receive hourly shots of insulin, but he wisely chose to get some sleep. A nice corollary to this behavior was his refusal to memorize medical trivia just to suck up to the attending physician. I've never liked a show-off.


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