Think Twice Before Playing Doctor!
Here’s something I discovered back in 1984 while taking a college course in Operating Room Technology. Playing Doctor! Part of the course was spent in practical hands on experience as surgical technicians. We assisted surgeons by handing the correct equipment and proper instruments to the surgeon at the right time.
When you weren’t assisting in an operation, you had to wear a white lab coat to keep your “scrubs” clean. And if you happened to be walking somewhere in the hospital wearing your lab coat…many times people and other hospital employees assumed you were a doctor. They would address you with such respect! Gee, that was a lot of fun sometimes. But there wasn’t much opportunity to really enjoy the game since your class time was usually packed full.
This class required a lot of medical research learning surgical procedures the surgeons performed. Therefore, I became quite proficient in surgical techniques and various symptomatic conditions relating to a patient. Or so I thought.
I came home from classes one afternoon to find my wife feeling ill. “Aha! An opportunity to put my new knowledge to use”, I thought. So, I prodded, poked and questioned until I was sure I had a correct diagnosis. Pain in the lower abdominal quadrant, high fever, swelling and redness in the affected area…all symptoms of acute appendicitis!! No doubt about it. Months of medical research had made me the new “Marcus Welby”.
I was feeling pretty full of myself as I prepared “my patient” for transport to a local emergency room. That puppy was ready to come out! I donned my white lab coat with the student operating room technician badge and loaded my wife into our car. “Hmmm, if only my car had flashing lights and a siren.” I thought. But for then my regular old emergency car flashers had to do.
We covered the 14 mile trip into town in record time and wheeled up to the hospital emergency entrance. I jumped out, grabbed a nearby wheel chair and took off towards my car with it. “Hey, where are you going with my chair?” an orderly hollered. I apologized and returned it to him and resumed my search. I found one directly inside the door. I remembered then that’s where they always put emergency wheel chairs.
Back to my car I hurried and put my wife in the chair. I wheeled her in through the automatic doors with great pomp and circumstance demanding immediate assistance with an emergency. Of course, being the emergency room, everybody had one. But an orderly noticed my white lab coat and suddenly my wife was at the front of the line.
An operating room nurse rushed over and respectfully inquired what the situation was. “This woman needs an immediate appendectomy”, I stated with authority. She and an orderly took my wife to the nearest open operating room, stopping in route only to phone supply to get an appendectomy set up to O R number 4, “stat”!
Feeling proud of myself for having done such a good job, I sat down in the waiting room. The operating room nurse exited the surgical ward, spied me and quickly walked over to me. “Aren’t you doing the surgery, uh, Dr. uh…,” then she read the badge attached to my lab coat. “Student!” she exclaimed. Her face turned a crimson red. Whether it was from anger or extreme embarrassment is anybody’s guess.
However, a bona fide doctor was assigned to the case and a diagnosis made. The operating room nurse returned, now fully recovered from her prior mistake. But now she seemed to have an air of superiority, bordering on snobbish, about her.
“Excuse me” she said. “But just where did you get the idea your wife had appendicitis?” I proceeded to tell her my observations and what the book said. “You better go back and study that book a little more,” she snapped. Then she proceeded to clue me into a number of things I didn’t know. My wife had “Shingles”.
The hospital made a few changes in working attire. The first being all students needing a lab coat were given one, only these were blue.
Speaking of shingles, I hung mine up and never dared make a diagnosis again.