Heart of Darkness

Put a team of 2-3 doctors in with 10 nurses, 1 secretary and about 12 really sick patients into a small, enclosed area without the ability to look outside, be alone (except for the bathroom) or eat like a normal person and don’t let them out for 8-12 hours at a time. What do you get? The ultimate test of personality disorders, interpersonal dynamics, soft skills, response to stress, and ability to cope with low blood sugar levels.

It would be redundant to say that this week was much tougher. MUCH tougher. I found myself feeling physically trapped at the doctor’s station, angry for having to carefully stuff food into my face (nothing warm, of course, as we have no kitchen) around a computer while forced to listen to other’s banter (I need some peace and quiet sometimes! And I can’t run to the bathroom for 15 minutes when I need to be alone). Then we had some MAJOR situations on the ward- that makes some people yell. I don’t like when people yell, even if it’s not directed at me. I got to the point of having to be EXTREMELY firm with a few nurses who were playing Machiavellian games with the “new girl”. I forced myself to stay polite, but made it clear that I am nice because I choose to be, not because I don’t have a backbone.

I’m exhausted. I feel like I was tested at the end of my limits. Surgery was sometimes more physically taxing, but the ICU is somewhere between Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the movie “The Game” with Michael Douglas (hopefully not to be followed by “Falling Down”).

It’s an artificial environment. Patients are either only very theoretically threatened (i.e. the normal post-OP patient) or very really at the end of their life. We have to help their family cope with life-changing events. We can’t always eat, drink or go to the bathroom when we need to. It’s very few people (only 2 attending physicians instead of about 10 surgeons I would usually work with) in a very small space. This is what bands must feel like on the road. Or a hamster in a strange cage.

The horror, the horror.

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