My Pen and My List

Extra-small, I click, because
it's the only way to print the list on just page one.
I grab my pen and a spare
for the occasional attending in need.
I pause—is this week's attending one who struggles with small font?

You don’t have to come in so early, they say,
but it helps.
The quietness of the early darkness,
just me and the overnight call,
before the barrage of my pager ensues.

Asterisks for caths, pacers, and TEEs—
you better all be NPO!
Checkboxes for DCs—
am I being too ambitious?
no, just optimistic.

When the rest of the team arrives for sign-out, I am ready:
my Securechat set available, phone fully charged, and pager on ring.
Who knows from where the next consult strikes?
or the seemingly casual, social visit
easing you in before the surprise attack, “by the way.”

Let’s take the stairs! the attending announces,
Park the WOW!
I nod, nudging my phone between my ear and shoulder
to the static of a speedy ramble.
I jot down an MRN, my palm for a clipboard.

After stair climbing, we do standing exercises,
waylaid by a controversy: aspirin as primary prevention,
our debate stages the entrance to a numbered door.
CODE BLUE blasts overhead—time to sprint.
I grip my stethoscope and list, the latter more precious than the former.

My breath is heavy as I use the running time to drill my intern
a time to shock and an amio to dose,
my resident behind me armed with a handheld and gel,
tip down and shaken.
The chalk talk and discharges will have to wait.

Morning rounds blend into afternoon rounds
as urgent new ones infiltrate our list.
Did we finish? Did the procedures get done? Did they go home?
Until the end of the day again, and
I retreat back into the quietness of the late darkness.

I assess my list again, now crinkled and stained;
oh what you have gone through.
But tomorrow is a new day, I say,
as I prepare to do battle
with my pen and my list.


This article was authored by Christine P. Shen, MD, a fellow at Scripps Clinic. Twitter: @iconsideritjoy.

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