I got fired.
Yes, it's possible for a doctor, even a trauma surgeon, to get fired. But I never had...until a few days ago. Fortunately there were other trauma surgeons who were available to care for this patient...wait, let me take a step back and explain. Before you get worried, don't. It has a happy ending. Sorry if I just spoiled it.
A 40-something year old guy was brought to me after he rolled his car over several times. He was clearly intoxicated, but also clearly in a lot of pain. After an exhaustive workup, he had a collapsed lung and several broken ribs. I inserted a tube into his chest to re-expand his lung, and I admitted him to intensive care.
The next few days were rough for him - rib fractures hurt like hell, or so I'm told. About three days later his lung remained expanded, so it was finally time to take the tube out. He was sitting in his chair in the ICU when I came to see him, so to avoid bothering the nurse, I helped him back to the bed and removed the tube without any difficulty.
When I went to his room the next day, his wife ushered me back out.
"We want to see Dr. W" (not his real name) "instead of you from now on."
She must not have seen the flabbergasted look on my face, because she didn't explain. I haltingly told her ok, but I had never been fired before. Without a word, she gave me an awkward half smile and went back into his room. I started to walk away...
No. No! I've never been fired before. What the hell did I do wrong?? I had to know.
I steeled myself, turned back around, and went back to his room.
"I understand what you're saying, and I'll ask Dr. W to see you," I told them. "But if I need to know what I did wrong. If I leave here today having not learned anything, then I can't improve myself."
She explained that they were very upset about how I hadn't gotten the nurse's help the day before, and from their viewpoint that had made removing the tube more difficult and more uncomfortable. I explained that I try to be self-sufficient and not bother the already-overworked nurses. I then thanked them and left, feeling very unsettled. But at least I knew why.
Dr. W called me the next day - he went to see the patient, but he and his wife now wanted me BACK as their doctor. Apparently they were so impressed with how professionally I handled the adverse situation that they instantly felt at ease with me, and their trust and faith in me had been completely restored.
I'll never understand the human mind. This is why it's called "the art of medicine." There's so much more to it than just fixing holes and removing dead stuff.
But every day I learn something new is NOT a wasted day.