Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chief what?!?

Their times of birth were 1526h, 1527h and 1528h. Three babies in three minutes. Her life has been suddenly changed from the quiet days of strict bed rest up on the ante-partum ward were she was learning to knit and working on putting a quilt together. Now hurled into the reality of having three premature babies, one of which weighs less than a kilogram. She is a recent immigrant to Canada, trained as a nurse. She and her husband have a one bedroom basement suite and he works the graveyard shift at Tim Hortons every night. The Canadian dream, eh?

Somehow I have become a chief resident. No, contrary to life on Grey’s Anatomy, this is not a prestigious position you apply for, it’s a mandatory part of a residency in obstetrics and for the most part I hate it. Your junior residents have an obligation to dislike you because you make the call schedule, and no matter what, it will be horrible because of the sheer volume of hours they have to work. They will always consider it unfair, regardless of how many hours you invest in planning ahead, spreading out their call days and weekends. Your attendings somehow hold you responsible for any case that goes awry, either because you didn’t show up for it, or because you did. Oh yeah, and they don’t like how you make the call schedule either. Nobody is happy.

But enough whining, what I love about being a chief resident is the staff clinic. A clinic run by the chief residents for women who don’t yet have health care coverage. The women are mostly recent immigrants and refugees who go through a financial assessment to qualify to be there. Occasionally they manage to jump through the hoops and a patient shows up with a purse worth several weeks salary but for the most part these women are facing huge barriers to getting care. Not only financial stress but imagine the terror of arriving at a hospital in labour and not speaking a word of English. I love the colourful spectrum of languages and cultures that traipse through the clinic, their faces containing such depth of heartache and hope that it fills me with both. This clinic is a glimpse of why I chose to embark on this journey.

The obstetrician who oversees staff clinic asked what type of patients we would like to see referred, then she laughed as she remembered, “That’s right, you don’t like rich people at all, I’ll try to screen them a bit better!”