Doctors’ (and patients’) hero

His name was Dr. Bertrand M. Bell. His obituary in today’s New York Times credits him with being instrumental in reducing the exhausting hours worked by medical residents and interns being trained in our hospitals. According to the obit, it was not unusual for residents and interns to work for 36 hours straight and up to 95 hours per week. Dr. Bell noted that these were not experienced physicians but were doctors in training, yet they were tasked with making crucial decisions in the care of patients.

His suggested reforms led to a reduction in those hours and to increased supervision by more experienced physicians. We owe him thanks.

As a hospital patient, I have endured the behavior of a sleep-deprived medical resident who once ordered me awake at 2:30 a.m. for an extended interview and in an angry voice warned me not to complain, although he complained freely about his own circumstances. He was exhausted and should not have been caring for patients in that condition. Imagine the potential consequences if he had been called upon to make a life-or-death decision in his condition.

The people who care for patients in hospitals are my heroes. I have great respect for them and appreciate the sacrifices they have made and continue to make to educate themselves and care for others. Requiring them to make important medical decisions and provide compassionate, thoughtful care to patients in a stressful environment is a tall order. Depriving them of proper rest while doing it is more than foolish, a holdover from a long tradition of torturing doctors-in-training, presumably to prepare them well for the realities of a career in medical care. They certainly can’t be at their best in such conditions, but more important, it puts us, the patients,  at greater risk, and that is unacceptable.

Here’s to Dr. Bell with gratitude for his contributions to greater sanity in medical care.

Today’s word or phrase: short-lived. The second half of this popular hyphenated  term correctly rhymes with dived or deprived or connived. Think of the plural of life, which is lives. Knife: knives. If you are describing something that has a short life, say it correctly. short-lived. The lived rhymes with deprived.

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