Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't judge a book...

...by its cover.

So yesterday, I wrote about an interaction I observed between the Radiology resident-on-call and a scrub-adorned, ESL-accented Asian male who wanted to take a shower in the on-call room. This morning, I woke up early for Interventional Radiology teaching rounds, and you will not believe who showed up to teach them: a scrub-adorned, ESL-accented Asian male.

"HOLY CRAP!" I exclaimed internally. Was this the same guy? I was initially positive that it is. But after sitting in lecture for an hour questioning my original gut feeling, I'm slightly less confident. Maybe I just can't tell one scrub-wearing, strongly accented, short, glasses-wearing Asian male from another? No, I am not racist against my own kind!

Since I was at first sure it was the same character as the one I had seen yesterday, I spent the first fifteen minutes trying to sort out whether this man was a technologist or a radiologist. Techs can know quite a lot about their domain, but this man seemed to speak with confidence about procedures, research studies, and what sort of material would be covered on Royal College examinations. I was suspicious.

But my hypothesizing vanished once the presenter ended the informal part of the teaching session and moved on to his slideshow. This man was not a technologist, he was the frigging Head of frigging Interventional Radiology!

I felt a lump in my metaphorical throat. I was suddenly very glad I had not piped in to defend the on-call resident yesterday evening (I had previously considered that I maybe should have pitched in something along the lines of, "You know, it's totally rational that the shower in the on-call room should be reserved for the on-call resident."). Despite the fact that this argument still actually makes sense, speaking that way to a power figure could be a career limiting move! (That's kind of sad, isn't it?)

But more importantly, shouldn't a third-year resident know who the Head of Interventional Radiology is and what he looks like?

Then again, there are so many residents and staff being shuffled between different sites (and so little Interventional Radiology in residency) that it seemed vaguely conceivable that he did not. If that was the case, the conversation from yesterday must be read very differently:

Staff: Hey, do you know the password to get into this room? It's locked. I need to shower.

Resident: Uh, that's the on-call room.

S: I know. I need to shower.

R: Well, it's only supposed to be for the resident.

S: What are you talking about? [I'm a frigging staff, why are you barking up the hierarchy?] I just need to shower.

R: Well, who is going to clean it?

S: Who is going to clean it? [Do I look like a janitor to you?] I need to shower, who said this room is only for residents?

R: Uh, the department? Look, it's like you wouldn't walk into someone's room and sleep on the bed, right?

S: I'm not going to sleep on the bed. I just need to use the shower. [Are you dumb or something?]

R: Look, if you want, I can open the door.

...

S: What year are you?

R: PGY-3 (third year)

S: What is your name?

R: Rocky.

S: Rocky. Perfect... [Your career is over, insect.]

Scary. This story also warns us about the dangers of making assumptions as to who someone is and about being short-tempered. You might really shoot yourself in the foot. In fact, doctors in scrubs get mistaken for other professionals all the time. My resident on General Surgery once told me that because she was ethnic (Indian) and wore scrubs all the time, patients would often confuse her for a nurse or an orderly. "Oh, you're my doctor?"

I have to admit that I was quick to jump on the conclusion that the person in question was a technologist (not that I have anything against technologists - I have friends in training to be techs!). But in my defense, it made sense. They were unlikely to be a nurse in the Radiology department, and the odds of them being another resident or a staff-member without the on-call resident recognizing them seemed entirely implausible! Plus, why would a staff need to shower (why would anyone need to shower on their way home)? And why in the on-call room?

The original logic of the resident's poorly construed argument still stands (and I still think he was in the right at least logic-wise). But nobody in their right mind would have talked to the Head of Interventional Radiology that way. A powerful reminder why we should treat strangers (or perhaps everyone) with respect, and try to keep a lid on our negativity.

Then again, it might not have been the same person at all. In fact, as I continued to listen to this morning's lecture, I swear that the speaker's accent had a bit more of a British HK slant to it than the gruff Peter Chao I had originally recalled. Although, I have to wonder whether this is recall bias - i.e. knowing that the speaker was in fact the Head of Interventional Radiology made me perceive his accent to be more refined or vice versa (thinking that the speaker yesterday was foolish made me perceive their accent as more rough). No, I am not an elitist bastard!

But seriously, moral lessons aside, they could have been the same person; they could not have been. Put two myopic Asian men in scrubs and it's pretty hard to tell them apart. How do I know? I've been mistaken for any number of my colleagues countless times: Kushima, Kon, and people who I don't even bear the faintest resemblance to.

I mean for real, y'alls look alike.

1 comment:

Kushima said...

haha this is hilarious...I thought of a person as soon as I read your description, but I didn't know he's the head of IR...