Post 30 My Battle with the Nursing Sister. Round Two

Standing in the corridor outside the office door, angry and frustrated, I wondered what I should do until the nursing hand over was finished?   I had been publicly humiliated when I walked onto the ward on my first morning as a doctor.   Sister Ashbrook, damn her, had inferred that I was still a medical student, despite my name badge stating that I was now Doctor Lambert. 
 She had denied me access, claiming that it was her office when clearly it was the ward office for use by the doctors as well as the nurses.   Worse, she had done it in front of the entire ward nursing staff.   I still wanted to review some patients before my consultant arrived but I was dammed if I was going to stand outside the door like a naughty schoolboy outside the headmaster’s room.  Reluctantly I decided to return to the residency. 
But had I taken the right decision?

I was in no doubt that everything that I’d said and done had been entirely appropriate.  I had every right to enter the office to collect the notes that I required.  I would have been entitled to stand my ground; perhaps I should have done.   Equally, had I pushed my way through the group of nurses to reach the notes, the situation would have been exacerbated.   Sister would have been furious that her authority had been undermined and even more determined to make my life difficult in the future. 
As it was, I had lost face in front of the nurses and without doubt Sister looked pleased that she had put the new houseman firmly in his place.   However, on balance, I felt that my decision to withdraw gracefully and I hoped with some dignity, had been reasonable.   I would sort the matter out, one to one, with Sister Ashbrook at a later stage.

Returning to the residency, tail between my legs, I met Dr Khan, the registrar on the unit, coming in the opposite direction.
“Hello Paul,” he said, “or should it be Dr Lambert now?  I was delighted to hear you’ve been appointed to join us.” 
Infinitely a warmer welcome than I had received in the clinical office! 
“But you’re going in the wrong direction,” he continued, “we need to have a quick look at Mr Potts’ patients before he does his ward round.    The boss expects us to be up to date with our patient’s problems at all times and I like the houseman to join me on my early morning round.”
“That's exactly what I was trying to do.” I said and went on to explain what had happened.
“Ah,” said Mr Khan, “so you’ve already had your first spat with Sister Ashbrook have you?  That didn’t take you long.   Well, you come with me.”
Then with a twinkle in his eye, he added, “Let’s go and stir things up a bit”. 

Together we walked back to the ward  and he knocked on the office door that remained firmly closed as the nurses continued their morning handover.  Without waiting for a reply, he entered and I followed, slightly hesitantly a step or two behind.
“Good morning Sister, good morning nurses,” Mr Khan said, in the cheeriest conceivable voice.  “I believe you’ve all met our new house officer, Dr Lambert.   Now if you don’t mind Sister, Dr Lambert and I will just collect a few patient records and then we’ll leave you all in peace to have your little chin wag.”

He went to the medical records trolley, displacing a couple of the nurses as he did so and plucked out a selection of notes.   To my amazement, he then burst into song.    It was a tune with which I was very familiar.   It was ‘Territory Folks’ from the musical Oklahoma.   I knew the words well enough too.   They came from the Hospital Revue that the doctors and nurses had performed the previous Christmas.
 In a rich clear tenor voice he sang the verse;
  “Oh, the Surgeons and the Sisters should be friends,
   Oh, the Surgeons and the Sisters should be friends. 
   Surgeons need to stitch and sew,
   Sisters need to show them how,
   The Surgeons and the Sisters should be friends.”

He then went straight into the chorus;
   “Doctors and Nurses should be friendly,
    Doctors and Nurses should be pals,
    Doctors yearn to be Nurses’ sweethearts,
    Nurses yearn to be Doctors’ gals.”
When I’d re-entered the office, I had been determined to keep my head down and avoid catching Sister’s eye but at this performance I simply couldn’t resist turning to look at her to witness her reaction and that of the nurses. 
All the faces bar one were wreathed in smiles.  Several of the nurses laughed openly.  For a moment, I thought that they were going to break into spontaneous applause, heightening Sister’s humiliation but clearly, if they considered this, they thought better of it.  As the laughter subsided Mr Khan handed me a pile of notes to carry as he turned towards the door.  After all, I was the house officer and he was the registrar.
“Thank you, Sister,” he said as we left the office. Without looking back, I closed the door quietly behind us. 
                                                                              ------------------------------------------------------

This story is adapted from ‘THE FIRST CUT’ which tells the story of a young doctor's first 6 months on a surgical ward. It is available from Amazon as a paperback or ebook.

Thought for the day 
I’ll not listen to reason..... reason always means what someone else has to say                                                         Elizabeth Gaskell  1810 – 1865

`Do you have a medical story to share with readers of this blog - the sort of tale you might relate to a friend over a cup of coffee or a mate in the pub?
I so, do get in touch using the ‘contact me’ tab on the Home Page.

Extract from doctor’s letter: The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1999

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