Remembering the annual ‘New Residents Day’

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July 1st used to be a date that forever lived in infamy for nurses who work in teaching hospitals: That’s when the latest influx of newly graduated doctors arrived for their clinical rotations. Many nurses would attempt to be scheduled OFF on that day and try to let the dust settle while the “greenhorns” looked about desperately for a friendly nurse to save them from themselves.

These people could be easily recognized by their short-sleeved lab jackets with the royal blue embroidered name on the left side. Each pocket contained necessary tools for survival: a guide to diagnoses, drug book and notebook (never seemed to have a PEN to write with!). The stethoscope was usually draped around the neck.

Female residents wore skirts or dresses and males wore button-down shirts with NECKTIES unless they were privileged to be in one of the surgical rotations and were allowed the green OR scrubs.

They quickly learned a very bad habit which seems to prevail among seasoned physicians today: “How to ‘borrow’ a nurses’ pen and get clean away with it.”  So far I have noted that neurosurgeons are the slickest thieves of nurse pens among all of the specialists.

One truth still remains: The smart ones KNOW that the experienced nurses can make their rotations easy, or we can make them difficult. And it’s their choice as to which way the wind blows…

The single worst first day performance by a new intern (sounds like an Academy Award) happened when one who was more full of ego than ability announced very loudly that “all of the ICU nurses are morons!”

The unit’s unwritten policy was, “Don’t get mad, get EVEN.” This particular young doctor became the recipient of very loudly announced (by telephone) NORMAL LAB RESULTS at about 0300 every night that he was on call for the first YEAR! Part of the night shift report was assigning the nurse who would have the honor of waking him up that night. And the best part was that there was NOTHING that he could do about it! He went to work in a small town and could never keep partners.

Of course there were among them the gems, those who recognized that humility before the Most Wise (nurses) was necessary for success. We had the privilege of caring for a patient whose family owned and operated a gourmet ice cream shop and who made certain that the unit received two half-gallons every day. There was a very nice resident who was doing his rotation with us and we decided to include him in the daily “call” announcing that the ice cream was there.

This was the equivalent of being anointed a knight of the realm. No matter where he was, once The Call was received he would appear within the hour to participate in the daily tasting ritual. He became one of the city’s most successful internists.

It is important for nurses to remember that they are there to guide and instruct these new young doctors. There is a difference between being a bully and giving someone a growth opportunity.

We must carefully groom and guide these newly graduated MDs into decent physicians that we would someday want to care for US. After all, we only want the very best when we get sick!

For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won (Lucy Maud Montgomery).

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