A Smile
by Ingmar Prokop, MSIII


The sun had long since risen but the hospital shift was just beginning at 4pm after reporting to the nurse's station. After getting the rundown on what exciting activities the night shift would be full of, the question was asked:

"What surgeries do you want?"

"The one with my favorite doctor, please! Hello, could I scrub on this case? Please say yes… If you don't, I will have to come up with some other convoluted task or get wrapped up in a trauma."

"Of course, medical student, just give the nurse your gloves."

After a routine surgery and some amiable chatting, cutting of sutures and a heartfelt thank you to everyone in the room, it's off to Recovery where the patient is safely sequestered amongst a sea of fail-safes and beeping. Phew, what a successful start to the evening. Now if I can actually accomplish something, I will be able to justify getting a few hours of sleep later. Off to the nurse's station again to blend into the midst of lab coats and scrub tops to wait around until someone needs me.

All too soon, the jarring sound of the trusty pager rings loudly over the din of the surgical floor. Level Two Trauma. Wake up students, time to shine, head down to the ED as quickly as possible! Like startled birds, we fly downstairs, shrouding ourselves in bright colored plastic to eagerly await the arrival.     

50 year old gentleman. Motorcycle accident. Lots of abrasions, possible fractures. Ah, no problem; this one will be a breeze. Vitals. Quick Exam. FAST Exam. Beep, Beep, Beep. Off to CT. Load him onto the moving altar, put on the Velcro straps. Good to go. Ring, Ring. The pager cries again.

"You two go respond to this trauma. We'll stay with this one," says another student.

Level Two Trauma. Elderly female fall with possible loss of consciousness.

Ok, off to CT again. More hiding from radiation and craning my neck to see exactly what the doctors are looking at in the black and white images.

On the way back to the ED, a man is looking for his family member.

"Where is the person who just came in?"

Big smile.  This is your time to be helpful.

"The female or the male?" I ask.

He is perplexed.

"The male," he responds.

"He's somewhere over on the N side. Let me find out for you. Okay, I can take you over there."
The family member arrives to another medical student just about to leave in search of the nurse.

"Hey, help me find the nurse; he doesn't look so good. Are you the nurse for this room?"


"Yes, but I'm busy right now. Just page your resident."

"I'm sorry but he looks like he needs attention now. Could you please take a look at him?"

"No, page your resident, I'm busy now."

The resident is paged.


"Hi, we are down in the ED with the male trauma patient from earlier and he doesn't look very good. His blood pressure is increasing, his face is really red, and he is having trouble breathing."

"He's okay. I'll be down there in a while. You can go. I'll check on him."

"Are you sure?"

"Yep. Thanks."

This is not good, I've heard about stuff like this happening, What should I do? I tried to tell the nurse; that didn't work. The resident said he was coming but right now there is no one helping me. I have to try the nurse again.

"Excuse me. The resident can't come right now. Can you take a look at the patient?"

"In a bit."

Oh darn, this is not my day…

Then, out of clutter of the ED, the resident materializes and calmly walks over.

"This is the patient you were talking about?"


"How are you feeling, sir? Try to slow your breathing. They have you hooked up to oxygen. Relax. The CT and x-ray look good. I'll be back in a while to check up on you."

As soon as we are out of the room the resident looks coolly over and says, "He's fine but thanks for paging me."

Then, as he's about to walk away he glances back, giving us a beaming smile and says, "I wouldn't be doing very well if I was in here. Would you?"