Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Hate Internal Medicine

Last night I was on call for the first time as a resident on the wards (i.e. general medicine inpatient wards, the basic/core inpatient rotation in internal medicine), and more than ever do I hate being a resident in internal medicine.

First of all, it was a busy and brutal night. From the time we opened for admissions at 2pm and until midnight, my pager was going off nonstop. The ER certainly had a non-stop supply of patients that needed to be admitted.

And by "needed to be admitted" I mean patients for whom the easiest thing for the ER to do would be to admit them because they were feeling a little too ill to be at home (or a lot too lazy to want to return home). The ER definitely could have discharged them, but because ER doctors are too spineless and unconfident, the patients were admitted to the hospital. Honestly, a quarter of patients admitted to internal medicine teams are admitted for so-called “social” reasons, referring to reasons like those I’ve just mentioned.

Therein lays my biggest gripe -- to put it politely -- with the night and with the field of internal medicine in general. We get dumped on. We have to admit every patient. We accept every patient the ER decides to admit to the hospital; or every patient from a surgical service that no longer has a surgical issue; or -- and this is the one I absolutely hate the most -- every patient presenting with a surgical problem that the surgery team who’ll tend to it is just too lazy to admit.

(As an example, I just admitted a young man with several neck masses that he had noticed over the last several weeks. He had no other medical problems and was completely stable; and somehow the ENT teams decided he would be better served on a medicine team. All I do every day is look for the latest recommendations by ENT. Seriously, talk about lazy and work-avoidant doctors.)

Ridiculous admissions like these make me hate what I do. Yes I hate what I do, I really do. I feel that if one wants to be an inpatient internal medicine doctor, one must have a pushover personality. There is no other way to survive each day without feeling discouraged and powerless. Fortunately I will be sub-specializing with a fellowship and thus hopefully avoiding such lame admissions in my future career, but I am not sure I can survive another year and a half of this. Each new admission boils my blood and makes me resent even more the patient population at large.

Anyway, let's go back to my night of call. Lucky me, that was only my first night of call this month ... and I have four months of wards left this year. At least I'm paid well.