So if you’re a patient in a hospital today, you should be more worried than ever if a resident is looking out for you?
Dr. Heart2: I wouldn’t say they’re good or bad. I’d say if you take an extremely competent physician and you give him too much to do, I guarantee you’ll make him bad. You take a mediocre physician and give him very little work to do and give him three to four patients to take care of over a six-month period, and I guarantee he will excel during those six months.
People complain that hospitals are dehumanizing. True?
Dr. Lung: Absolutely. Patients get these gowns that hardly cover half the body. And the chairs are not comfortable. At the sickest point in their life, they’re sharing a bathroom with strangers.
Dr. Heart2: The one thing patients are always complaining about is ringing the call bell and waiting 45 minutes for someone to answer. It’s the lack of service, the lack of compassion.
Dr. Virus: Do you think that’s a function of staffing, or is everyone who works in a hospital a schmuck?
Dr. Heart1: In my hospital, we have spectacular nurses who are at the top of their graduating classes. They’re not standing around chatting. If a patient is not being attended to, it’s because there’s one nurse for the whole floor.
Dr. Baby: I know one patient who had a very difficult colonoscopy and they said, “We’re going to keep you in the hospital overnight, just for observation.” So she’s sitting on the toilet and all of a sudden blood is falling out of her rectum and she’s bleeding and bleeding and she’s scared to death to get off the toilet. She’s ringing and ringing and ringing the buzzer and, turns out, it was three in the morning, there’s only one nurse for the whole floor, and she was on the other end dispensing medication. No one was at the nurse’s station to hear the buzzing. When patients stayed in the hospital ten or fifteen days, most of them were still convalescing and a nurse could focus on her three or four acute-care patients. Now they’re all acute. If I were to give patients a very critical piece of advice—if you’re coming to the hospital, bring a family member. You know you gotta bring someone who will sit with you and go get your Demerol for you and help if you fall in the bathroom, because that nurse is giving out meds and she’s got ten patients and she’s got IV lines.
“I had a patient who needed surgery badly, and she said, ‘I’d like to get a second opinion.’ So she went to a doctor who’s a classic thief. Everybody hates him. A few weeks later, I called her up to find out what was happening. She’d already had the operation.”
Are doctors arrogant?
Dr. Heart2: By virtue of our training and our knowledge, we can get away with things. We can get away with treating patients like shit, and no one is really going to come after us. I’m not talking about malpractice or medical negligence. I talking about arrogance, I’m talking about attitude.
Dr. Lung: They are indifferent. Especially, I hate to say this, men doctors with women patients. Every symptom of fatigue they really say it’s a non-symptom, it doesn’t exist, as opposed to, could there be a cause for this?
Dr. Heart1: You’re expecting doctors to be superhuman beings, you’re expecting them to take fatigue as an important symptom but at the same time not to overtest for fatigue. Are there physicians who are not as sensitive as they should be? Absolutely. As a profession, do we strive for the goal that was set for us by our teachers, do we strive enough? Probably not. Are we close enough to what we should be? No.
Is your ego wounded when a patient says he wants a second opinion?
Dr. Heart1: No, I encourage it. It’s rare that the second opinion is going to differ very much from what you have said. I give them the names of the people I would send my own family members to.
Dr. Baby: It can only make everybody happier—except when the doctor steals the patient. I had a patient who needed surgery badly—it was a scary-looking cyst—and she said, “I’d like to get a second opinion.” I said, “Absolutely.” So she went to a doctor who’s a classic thief. Everybody hates him. I waited a few weeks and I called her up to find out what was happening and she faxed me back her pathology report—she’d already had the operation! She wanted to know what the next step was. I said, “The next step is you’ve got a new doctor. Ask your surgeon—he did the operation.” I’m not here just to do Pap smears and poke around in your breasts. Surgery is what I like to do. You know, office hours are pretty much humdrum. It’s the operating room and the delivery room where you have the—I hate to use the word fun—but that’s where the fun is.