Thursday, December 06, 2007

St. Looney Tunes Hospital

Ah, youth. It never surprises me how certain people and situations bring long-hidden memories instantly to mind. Unfortunately, in the hospital I am frequently reminded of childhood cartoons, rather than the inspiring novels I read in my teens and twenties. Just for an introduction, let me familiarize you with the cast of characters that inhabit my --- and every other --- hospital:

Foghorn Leghorn --- This is the older surgeon, used to getting his way, who treats any surgeon younger than he as an underling, ready and willing to do his bidding at any time of the day or night. "Boy! I say, boy!" is his constant refrain, as in "Boy, take this call night for me," or "Boy, I need you to see my patients this weekend (even though we don't share call)." Likes to hear the sound of his own voice -- as in "That's a joke... I say, that's a joke, son". Means well, but one can get very tired of him very quickly.

Chickenhawk --- The other end of the spectrum from Foghorn Leghorn. The young surgeon, fresh out of training, for whom the term "dogmatic" was invented. Never backs down from a challenging case --- an admirable quality at times --- but sometimes needs an older, wiser physician to hold him back a bit.

Daffy Duck --- To paraphrase the Looney Tunes official description, this is the middle-aged doc who has become so frustrated at the idiocies he experiences every day that he as become "more self-analytical, competitive, peevish, paranoid, and neurotic. Eventually, (the doc finds) himself more and more at the mercy of a (hospital) that seemed to favor everyone but him. So why do (patients) love him? Despite his failures, Daffy, like the Greek hero Sisyphus, is a victim of injustice who continuously protests. And it's his refusal to surrender his will to the whims of the conspiring universe that makes him heroic." This is the doc who blows his top occasionally, but only when some stupid hospital policy has the potential to cause harm to his or her patient. Irascible, but lovable.

Bugs Bunny --- everybody loves Dr. Bugs Bunny. Funny, able to pull the wool over the administration's eyes, and in the end smells like a rose. Never -- I mean never -- can there be a Bugs Bunny surgeon. Such flippancy is erased the first time a surgical complication occurs. No, Dr. Bugs Bunny is usually an infectious disease doctor, or an anesthesiologist. Loads of fun to talk to.

Tweety Bird -- pardon the sexism, but Dr. Tweety Bird is a female physician. This is the type of lady doctor who is always unflappable, never sweats under pressure, and always looks cute and put together (even in the middle of the night). A delight for older male patients.

Marvin the Martian --- the hospital CFO. Nice, eager, and totally clueless about how we take care of patients in the hospital. Eager to submit the whole place to his will of cost cutting, but unable to achieve that goal because of the wildly bizarre personalities that make up a hospital.

Taz --- the hospital attorney. 'Nuff said.

Yosemite Sam --- the staff blowhard. A physician of any specialty who views the administration offices as his personal spot to blow off steam. Bad food? Go yell at administration. OR not running on time? Ditto. Like Sam's guns, he's frequently on the mark, but his misses are so wild that no one pays him any real attention.

Elmer Fudd --- this is a surgical blog, right? That means I can make fun of internists! Elmer Fudd is the caricature of the physician who is more interested in chasing zebras when he hears hoofbeats than in rounding up the horses around him. Serves as the butt of many jokes from surgeons, intensivists, gastroenterologists......but, does catch the silly wabbit on occasion!

Porky Pig --- the hospital CEO. Calm, but somehow that calmness seems to come at the expense of any realization of what exactly is going on elsewhere in the building. And just when you need him to do something important, it's "that's all folks," and he's off to be a CEO at another, larger institution.

Pepe lePew --- the nearly-retired doc who is in love with himself. This poor guy remains stuck in the world of 1972, when he was top dog at some now-shuttered academic institution, and has not read a journal article since the Ford administration. Tolerated, not well liked, and avoided in the doctor's dining room.

Hippety Hopper --- the quietest, smartest doc in the hospital. Most often a pathologist. Says almost nothing, but like the baby kangaroo, never ceases to kick those around him in the head when coming up with the right diagnosis.

Gossamer (AKA Rudolf) --- the staff pushover. Looks fierce, but in the cartoons let Bugs Bunny run roughshod over him, making him look like an idiot. In the hospital, he never says no, even when other docs or the hospital are dumping on him.

Rhode Island Red --- Foghorn Leghorn's rival in the cartoons, also his rival in the hospital. Mr. Smooth, the surgeon who seems to handle every untoward occurrence with grace and elan, whose patients love him, and whose complications always seem to turn out just right. Lasts about 3 years at every hospital he's worked in, because by then his schtick has worn thin, and bigger problems with his patient care start to surface.

Sylvester -- me. Sloppy in appearance, dogged in pursuit of an ever elusive goal -- which, in the cartoon, was Tweety, but in my case, some sign that the hospital administration "gets it" in regards to physician relations.

That's just an intro. We'd need to expand our list of cartoon characters to include the cranky ED doctor, the exasperated chief medical officer, or the heard-but-never-seen radiologist, to name a few. Just remember, though, that if you ever find yourself caught in the hospital, that everybody that works there has at least a little Bugs Bunny inside him or herself. Laughter, after all, really is the best medicine.