Even though I’ve recently graduated from what could be considered 23rd grade, the refrain remains the same. Where to sit, who to talk to, what’s my locker combination… even the mortification of a bad yearbook photo is repeated when your well-meaning department uses your passport photo (taken after running into CVS through a rainstorm underneath aggressively unflattering fluorescent lighting) as the photo for the “Welcome to Memorial” slideshow that runs on a cycle in the lounge.
The “where you sit” is a big one.
As a resident, I had risen to the top of the food chain – the chiefs had standing “dibs” on the three seats closest to the door during all noon conferences, ostensibly because we were repeatedly getting called out to fix administrative problems or address concerns from the interns and attendings. (More honestly, it was because we’d then be chosen after 1st and 2nd years for “And can anyone explain why we don’t use cephalexin for complicated soft tissue infections anymore?” sort of questions)
But I had to earn it – I first had to sit allll the way on the lefthand table, with the attendings sitting between me and the door. As upper levels, you graduated to the table near the door – but you still had to sit towards the front.
Same as the fresh meat. We always geared up on the benches closest to the glass – at first because we were terrified of the vets and moved in a pack, like antelopes navigating the Serengeti. Then it was because that’s just where the meat sat, and we always had things to talk about amongst ourselves. (Usually about what new gear we had finally purchased or how we’ll never understand the mechanics of “Cut Track, Major”)
I’m happy to say now that I feel much more at ease among the seasoned skaters, and have graduated to the back bench on occasion.
The meat still stick together frequently, but now it’s just because we’re super-cool and have secret handshakes and whatnot.
So the last frontier is the RDL. The mythical “Real Doctors Lounge”, so named by the resident for its tales of free, actual breakfast (true. And dangerous when there’s freshly made biscuits and sausage for the taking) unlimited coffee (true, but… barely coffee) and secret cabals of attending physicians chanting incantations to punish residents who don’t do their dictation summaries on time. (none that I’ve seen so far)
In the resident lounge, you could argue about which sub-specialists in the hospitalist were the cutest (one of the gastroenterologists) or what shenanigans had gone on in the call room. (None, that I can verify) We were all equals in there – equally stressed, equally low on the totem pole.
Now, when I walk through the RDL, I’m fresh meat again. In derby, you’re intimiated because Pinot Gringo’s ninja hip checks are deadly or Ira Fuse’s transitions are effortless. At the hospital, it’s because the cardiothoracic surgeon has been cracking chests since before I graduated high school, or that the pulmonologist has the precognition of Yoda when it comes to respiratory failure and septic shock.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy to discuss my patients at length with these people, and I will call them at 4 AM if someone is crumping (highly techinical medical term for “They don’t look so good”), and they will be friendly and professional in turn.
I just don’t know if I’m ready to sit down at the lunch table and share my fries with them. We’ll see.