With my schedule and how my shifts are stacked, every other Tuesday night is my “Friday”, leading to my weekend. I’m off from now until midnight Monday night. And after these past few shifts, it’ll be a needed break.
Somewhere between the end of my shift Saturday morning and heading back in at midnight 16 hours later, the amount of patients through the ED went nuts. Wednesday? No problem. Friday? No problem. Saturday? Sunday? Tuesday? INSANE! Literally, in some cases. Adult emergency physicians usually see patients at a rate of about 2 patients/hour over the long haul. Pediatric emergency physicians usually see the kids a bit faster than that, given the overall slightly lesser acuity. EDs which are staffed with plentiful residents help to increase that number somewhat, but there’s still an upper limit. Seeing 6 patients/hour, hour after hour, shift after shift, is verging on the unsafe (if not pushing well into that region). No matter how good the nurses are (and they ARE), or how quick and agile the residents are (and some of them are just that good), it’s still on me in the end. It’ll be good to have a few days off.
But it’s good to know that my brain was working towards the end of my shift this morning. As I was finishing with one family, I asked if there were any questions. One of the adults in the room looked at me and said, “Yes. I have a question.” He looked very serious, very concerned, so I stopped and focused all of my attention on him. (By this point, my sense of humor had long since left the building…much like Elvis.) With a perfectly straight face, the gentleman asked, “Why don’t sheep shrink when they get wet, like my wool sweater does?”
Without even thinking, I snapped back, “Because you don’t put sheep in the dryer.”
He said, “Oh. Very good answer. I’ll have to think more on this,” and I walked out of the room to let the nurse finish the discharge.
I’m snickering over this now, several hours later. But at the time? Both he and I were completely straight-faced. I’m still not sure if he meant it as a serious question or not.