Monday, October 16, 2006

Learn from someone else's mistake #2: The Day my Sense of Humour Died

I told my last med school joke today.

So much for my mark for "Professionalism" for this block of case-based learning.

We were given a case and on one sheet, the information provided said that "vital signs were normal." Then, on the next sheet, the respiratory rate and heart rate were elevated. One person in our group said, "I thought we were told that the vitals were normal!"

My fateful response: "Don't trust nurses."

Ha, ha. I though it was funny. Most of the people laughed, too, and realized that I WAS JOKING, and that comment is NOT exemplary of what I feel about nurses.

Please let me provide context (perhaps my first mistake; I made my comment in the first session with a new group, so they probably didn't realize that I try really hard to respect everybody and every profession and every member of the health care team).

  • I know from personal experience, and I strongly believe that nurses are an important and valuable part of the health care team and play hugely significant and essential roles. Without them, hospitals wouldn't function.
  • I know that nurses can be a doctor/med student's worst enemy or best friend
  • I have several good friends who are currently nursing students, or just became nurses. Heck, I read nursing blogs, I dated a nurse once, I have friends whose moms are nurses, and my mom's a nurse, too.
  • I wouldn't wish anything bad upon a nurse and plan to treat them with the respect and admiration they deserve.
  • my only exception: when there is incompetence or danger to a patient, then I have no tolerance (but this goes for anyone working in a hospital)

Anyways...the tutor asked me to repeat what I had said. I told him I was joking, and he went on a rant about how his wife is a nurse, how nurses are important part of a team, how what I said wasn't funny, and on and on and on. When he finished talking and I had turned red enough and sunk deep enough into my chair, I blubbered out an apology.

Serves me right - when we were laying out ground rules for this case-based learning block, I offered, "Be willing to give and accept constructive criticism." I didn't expect to have to accept some so soon. The funnier part was that, according to our case, it wasn't a nurse who presented the vitals - it was a paramedic.

Figures. Don't trust param.... i mean, nevermind! ONLY KIDDING! man, I really haven't learned my lesson. (Oh dear, do I have to make it clear that I love paramedics now, too?! okay here goes: that's what I originally wanted to do with my life, and a former paramedic in my class drove me to school today :) )

The tutor did say he was sorry for singling me out and later apologized again, and I had a chance to try to redeem myself and say what I really feel about nurses and that my flippant comment wasn't what I really believe. Good thing it was in a small-group session with only 8 other people.

I definitely am much more aware that I need to be careful with my jokes, because usually they don't emphasize the amount of respect I usually have. Also because this isn't the first time I could've been more tactful. Maybe it was my enjoyment of other blogs where med humour abounds that led me to say things like that...regardless of where it came from, from now on I'll keep it to the written word.

Wish me well in beating down my sense of humour. Class clown, signing out.

**Postscript (10/24/06)**
Our tutor has lightened up a bit; I think perhaps he feels bad for reaming me out. I've noticed a distinct - almost forced - effort on his part to laugh at all the (very sterile and non-offensive) jokes I've made since then.

**Post-Postscript (07/24/07)**
Since I've linked to this post I read it again. Fortunately I've learned from this (and I know better now, thanks Captain Constructive Criticism below who called me an ass). In my review for the block my tutor made mention that I shouldn't be too careful lest I lose my 'endearing' sense of humour.


Anonymous said...

Your tutor is way too touchy. That's a very common line on the wards, and not always in jest. The way I usually hear it is, "Interns know to not trust anyone." And in one sense it's true, and valuable: until you've verified the reliability of a team member, you can't trust them, especially not for an interpretation like, VSS. And after you know them to be reliable, you still better check the important pieces yourself.

The line also goes, "You can't trust medical students." :)

It was a fair joke. Don't be too hard on yourself. Maybe just gage the audience a bit better.

Vitum Medicinus said...

Thanks, Alice, you rock. I feel much better now.

incidental findings said...

I agree. My mom's a nurse. I love nurses. But the golden rule in the hospital is not just "don't trust nurses," but is quite simple: don't trust anyone.

And don't be ashamed of humor. Medicine's a dark art. You have to be able to laugh at it (and yourself).

Anonymous said...

oh one of your nurse friends i am sad to hear the predicament you got yourself in to. haha...but a nurse we dont trust i think we are even!
just dont say it again :)

Anonymous said...

I can see why the tutor was touchy, although I don't think that he needed to rip you a new one in front of the whole class. I think that sometimes nurses feel overlooked... and that everyone sees the doctors as the big lifesaving heros, while nurses are the ones with the patients 24-7, dealing with poo and all the other unmentionables. Really though, you need everyone working together for things to get done.

Anonymous said...

I don't trust nurses either. It's the doctors that have the education. Nurses think they know more than the doctors but they don't.

Generally speaking, nurses aren't good for much. They can weigh me, take my BP, hand me a gown and leave. That's all they're good for. I never allow them to stay once the doctor arrives. If necessary I ask them to leave then lock the door behind them.

They don't have or show any respect for their patients, especially men. The world would be better off without them.