Monday, August 23, 2010

A Change of Culture

The General Hospital in "Olympic City" was a teaching hospital. I A, was a medical ward where I was one of the two Junior Interns responsible for the day to day medical care of assigned patients. We were on the floor for the entire month of May, 1958, and became close to the nursing and other ward staff. The Senior Resident Staff and the Consultants came and went as necessary! The Professor of Medicine made rounds twice a week on preselected patients. He came with a retinue of Chief Resident and various medical students on what was a teaching round. Professor K was a kind and quiet man who accepted the due deference he was given with a certain ease.He never played the martinet that was affected by some of his surgical colleagues. My junior colleague and I were sitting on the ward, doing charts early, the morning the Professor was due to appear! The air with the nurses was electric! There was a buzz! Something was up! Hitherto, they had all stood up when the Professor appeared, and remained standing while he had his charts gathered by the Chief Resident, and when he made preliminary observations. When Professor K came to the ward station that morning my colleague and I stood up but the nurses all remained seated and appeared busy, except the head nurse who remained seated , smiled at Professor K and said, " Good morning Dr. K! Your charts are ready for you in the alcove and the patients are prepared, so I hope you find everything in order". She then ignored him and proceeded to do her job. I felt sorry for Professor K. He was totally nonplussed. The rug was pulled out from under him. He had received the first gust of a new wind that would eventually deconstruct the hierarchical structure. All change occurs gradually, in little increments, in peaceable kingdoms like ours, hopefully. It may be true that this episode will no longer be understood fully, other than by Old Nurses!

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