Wednesday, July 20, 2011

They get you in the bathroom too

I don't like having my bodily functions restricted, and medicine is a field that tends to do that. For example, medical training often limits when you can eat and sleep. I suspect if there were a way for training to limit breathing, they'd do it.

But worst of all is being limited when you can go to that bathroom. I mean, that's a pretty primal need. One thing I love about my job is that there are three clean bathrooms on my unit. And if I'd like more privacy or those bathrooms are full, all I have to do is walk down the floor and there's another SIX bathrooms away from patient care areas. It's basically heaven to me.

It wasn't always so.

The worst bathroom time during training is during surgery. Since I'm not a surgeon, I only had to tolerate this during med school, thank god. I would refuse to drink anything in the morning so I wouldn't have to pee during the first surgery. Sometimes I'd be so thirsty, so I'd go to a water fountain and just wet my tongue, but not actually swallow any water. It was kind of insane.

When I was an intern, I found it incredibly annoying when I'd get paged while in the bathroom. I remember one call when I was paged overhead while in the bathroom. Apparently, the nurse paged me to my pager first, but she couldn't even wait the sixty seconds for the page to actually make it to my pager before paging me overhead.

When I heard the overhead page, I assumed there was something really important going on, so I came running. It turned out it was about an elevated blood pressure. And the patient in question had had elevated blood pressures all night. I was livid. I started yelling, "You can't even take a piss in this place!" (My finest moment.)

As an inpatient resident, while about 7-8 months pregnant, I was in the middle of working on the rehab unit on a rather busy day, when I got up to go to the bathroom (often an urgent need when 7-8 months pregnant). A nurse saw me leaving and said, "Wait! You're leaving?? Don't go!"

Me: "I'm just going to the bathroom. I'll be right back."

Nurse: "Yes, but first I need you to--"

Me: "Please let me go pee!"

At that point, I heard some other kind nurse call out, "Let her pee!"

I was allowed to pee.


  1. The overhead paging sounds really obnoxious. Yay! Something to look forward to! I remember on my sub-i pharmacy paged me about a dose on some non-urgent drug while I was in the middle of answering 3 other quasi-urgent pages. I finally did get back to them, 10 minutes later. OMG she was such a bitch on the phone! She was like, "I paged your RESIDENT and told him you didn't return your pages." My first thought at the time was, "Great, I'm wasting time calling you back for nothing."

    My resident didn't mind.

  2. I hated surgery for that very reason. I would limit my fluid intake so that I didn't have to pee mid-surgery, and then I would become vasovagal mid-surgery and have to leave to avoid passing out anyway. Thank goodness I liked internal way more than surgery, or I would've needed to start self-catheterizing.

  3. OMDG: Don't get me started on overhead paging. Where I work now, they will only page people overhead. Every time there's an overhead page, like five people are like, "Was that me? What was the number?"

    Solitary: I wonder if there are male surgeons who use a condom catheter during surgeries...?

  4. I've heard tales alleging that surgeons used condom catheters while operating, but in my 40+ years in the business, I never actually knew anyone who did. When doing a long, complex case, one focuses so much that hunger, thirst, itching and peeing simply do not enter one's mind. Not so much for the second assistant who is pulling on a retractor for 3 hours. Been there & done that. The boredom can overwhelm and the mind wanders.

  5. You people are such wimps. When I was in training we had to go up to a WEEK holding it in. We also had to go at least 30 days without eating or sleeping, and 7 days without breathing when we are on wards. And, in Summer weather that was over 110 degrees outside, we'd have to walk to the hospital, uphill, both ways, through icy streets and giant snowdrifts.

  6. Okay, two things
    1) I love it when the nice, normal nurses stand up for you to the unreasonable, bitchy nurses. It really is a minority of nurses that are mean to trainees -- most of them are nice, or at least civil. It's just that the bitchy ones stand out in your mind (also, as a staff physician, I can tell you that the bitchy nurses are NEVER the competent and diligent ones. Good nurses are also nice -- which is part of the reason why physicians respect their opinion)

    2) I love how the power dynamic of the medical team is imagined by above-mentioned mean nurses/allied health care staff, along the lines of "I told your resident that you did XYZ," or "if you don't do XYZ, i'm calling your resident", expecting us to toe the line because we don't want to get into trouble, I guess. The imagined dynamic (which I suspect comes from watching medical TV shows) is almost never actually the case, and your senior is much more likely to agree with you and ignore the nurse, at least partly because they can sniff out a Mean Nurse just as well as you can...

  7. I was also once overhead paged while busy doing my business in the bathroom. It turned out to be something ridiculously obnoxious like renewing some colace. And when I asked the nurse why she overhead paged me after waiting like 30 seconds after she paged me she just said, "but you always return your pages so quickly, I was worried!!" SERIOUSLY?!!! seriously. ;)

  8. On surgery now, hating every minute... I chug coffee at home and go to the bathroom right before the first surgery... But I've spent the better part of this month severely dehydrated.

  9. as a surgery resident (who often goes without drinking in the morning so as not to have to pee during the day) i'd say it is one of the worst parts of the job to not be able to pee/drink/eat whenever we want....but surgery is still WAYY cooler than any of the other specialties. and yes, i am biased.

  10. I'll never forget the manic attending who made us sign out of reading the multiple myeloma bone marrows to pee. I was pregnant - meaning my needs were more frequent, as you know. It was freaking humiliating.

  11. I nearly wet my pants the first few nights on call. Now if I get two seconds I go to the nearest staff bathroom. Great post!! :)

  12. I'm planning (hoping!) to get into surgery, but I guess I was kinda made for it (at least on the need to pee aspect). I'm a girl, but my bladder must be the size of a keg. I was just driving for something ridiculous like 12hrs, drinking water and red bull (gotta keep awake!) and didn't stop once to go to the bathroom.

    But yeah, the paging you overhead when you're in the bathroom sounds like hell!! One thing I won't be looking forward to...