Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guest Post and Excerpt The Devil Wears Scrubs by Freida McFadden


Newly minted doctor Jane McGill is in hell.

Not literally, of course. But between her drug addict patients, sleepless nights on call, and battling wits with the sadistic yet charming Sexy Surgeon, Jane can’t imagine an afterlife much worse than her first month of medical internship at County Hospital.

And then there’s the devil herself: Jane’s senior resident Dr. Alyssa Morgan. When Alyssa becomes absolutely hell-bent on making her new interns pay tenfold for the deadly sin of incompetence, Jane starts to worry that she may not make it through the year with her soul or her sanity still intact.

To Grin and Bear It 

You might think becoming a doctor is hard work. It is. You have to study a lot and earn good grades and work hard, and everything else you’d assume would be true. But that’s not the real reason why it’s so hard. 

The culture of medical training is that the people higher up on the totem pole are allowed, nay, encouraged, to abuse people below them. This can be exemplified with a single story: 

Several years ago, a female colleague of mine was doing her surgery rotation as a medical student. She was scrubbed in for a surgery and assigned the stereotypical med student job of holding the retractor. 

About three hours into the surgery, the student had been standing in one place without moving longer than she’d have thought humanly possible. She didn’t dare lift her fingers from the retractor, for fear that the surgeon would scream at her. It was at this time that a lock of her hair somehow managed to escape from underneath her surgical cap. This was noticed by the surgeon. And instead of telling her to fix her hair, the surgeon simply reached out and snipped off her hair with a surgical scissors! 

This is what it’s like. There are people responsible for medical training who think that it’s more appropriate to cut off your student’s hair than to simply ask her to fix it. 

And if you want to become a doctor, you have no choice but to grin and bear it. 

(And no, I have no idea where the hair fell. And yes, it’s probably worse to have a lock of hair plummet into your patient’s abdomen than it is to have it hanging loose from the student’s head.) 


This patient is the fattest man I’ve ever seen in my life. His name is George Leeman and he’s got fat folds on his belly that are so deep, I think I could stick my whole fist inside. Hell, I think I could stick my whole arm inside. I think I might be able to set up a tent in his belly button with an adjacent fireplace. The nurses had to get him an extra-large bed because the regular hospital beds were too small to fit his massive frame.

Before we got him in the bed, the nurses weighed Mr. Leeman on our bariatric scale. It’s a scale we use for people who are either really obese or are in a wheelchair. The scale has a platform that’s about the size of an elevator and you can wheel or waddle onto it. We got a weight for Mr. Leeman and used it to calculate his body mass index (BMI). The BMI is a calculation based on a patient’s weight and height, and tells us scientifically exactly how fat a patient is.

For example, before I started medical school, my BMI was 24. That put me square in the middle range of “normal.” Now, less than one month into my intern year, my BMI is 26, which puts me just on the edge of “overweight,” kind of like the rest of the country. If I continue to eat primarily junk food, which is likely given how the last few weeks are going, I might get up to 30, which would make me officially “obese.”

Mr. Leeman’s BMI is about five trillion.

Not really. But it’s high. He’s what we’d call “morbidly obese.” That’s a real medical diagnosis, you know. It’s not just something you say to make fun of the fat kid in the playground.

I’ve been sitting here talking to Mr. Leeman for about thirty minutes, scribbling notes on a piece of paper about his heart disease, his medications, his other medical problems. I actually sort of like the guy. He’s got a big toothy smile and he calls me “honey.” I should probably be insulted by the “honey” thing since he’s supposed to call me “doctor” and he’s just being disrespectful and sexist, but at this hour of the morning, any kind words make me feel a little less awful.

My senior resident Alyssa particularly dislikes obese patients. When the emergency room calls her about an obese patient, she sighs extra loudly. I’m not as bothered, and it’s not just because I automatically like anything that makes Alyssa unhappy. But I figure nobody gets to 600 pounds just by eating a bunch of bacon double cheeseburgers. People who are that big must have a disease, just like the patients with pancreatic cancer or multiple sclerosis. And I’m not going to throw stones. After all, I like my bacon double cheeseburgers too.

“Do you have any more questions, sweetheart?” Mr. Leeman asks me. I’ve now graduated to sweetheart. He’s making me feel all of twelve years old.

I look down at my page of chicken scratch. I can make out exactly five words on the page. I’ve been a doctor less than a month and I already got the handwriting down pat.

“No, I think that’ll be all,” I say. Then I add, “For now.”

As a lowly medical intern, I must discuss every patient I see with my senior resident—and odds are twenty to one that Alyssa will send me back in here to ask something else I forgot. No matter how thorough a history I think I got, she always comes up with something. What’s the patient’s shoe size? What did he eat for dinner last night? What was the middle name of his best friend in third grade? Alyssa demands a very thorough history.

I find Alyssa sitting in the resident lounge, which is her working area of choice when we’re on call. She’s wearing blue scrubs that make her eyes look bluer. Alyssa isn’t beautiful, although sometimes I wish she were because it would give me another reason to hate her. She’s on the cusp of beautiful, but she’s a little too skinny, a little too tall, her forehead a little too long. My mother always says that the forehead is what makes the face. I’m not sure I agree with that one, but Alyssa’s forehead definitely isn’t doing her any favors.

Alyssa must be as sleep deprived as I am, but she doesn’t look it. Her straight brown hair is swept back into… I think it’s a chignon, although I truthfully don’t know what the hell a chignon is. Not one little hair is out of place. Her eyes aren’t bloodshot and don’t have little purple circles under them, like I know mine do without even looking in a mirror. And she smells good. Nothing in this hospital smells good, except somehow Alyssa does.

“Hi,” I say timidly.

Alyssa is flipping through her index cards. She carries around a pack of index cards on which she catalogues information about all our patients, and possibly one about me too. My biggest fantasy is stealing her index cards and watching her flounder. Then I get disgusted with myself that stealing index cards has now become my biggest fantasy. In any case, she doesn’t look up from her cards when she speaks to me.

“Are you ready?” she asks me.

She’s not really asking me if I’m ready. She’s really saying to me, “You better be ready and not be wasting my time, girlie.” I wring my fists together and in the process, I crumple my notes slightly. Even though it’s three in the morning, I’ve got a little surge of adrenaline going.

“I’m ready,” I say, with all the finality of someone pledging her marriage vows.

Alyssa gestures at the couch across from her. I’m not allowed to actually sit next to her while we talk. I’m lucky she lets me sit at all. I can imagine her forcing me to stand at the doorway, maybe on one foot.

Before I can open my mouth, Alyssa says, “What took you so long?”

About the author:
Freida McFadden is a physician who has finally finally finally come to the end of her training and is still intact to write about it.

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