David I. Muir/for South Florida Times


Recently I found myself utilizing the services of one of our fine local emergency rooms.  The irony of the situation did not escape me.  The environment was familiar: The semi frantic activity, the smell, the beep and whirr of the machinery.  I did miss the barking and meowing which had been replaced by the conversations of worried families and a few moans and explicative from people who had been involved in auto accidents.

As I lie in the bed of bay 21,   a 4th year medical student entered to take my medical history and perform an exam. He introduced himself and I extended my hand.  He sheepishly accepted my greeting and began asking questions. He was accompanied by a nurse who closely listened and prompted him through the process.  I am not sure how long he had been in this, but he was pretty bad at it.  He had absolutely no bed side manner, but emergency clinics are not known for being populated with healthcare professionals with sparkling bed side manner.  He finished his interview and departed without a word.

Over my career, I have mentored many veterinary interns and first year residents.  They are universally very raw and often, very full of themselves just as I was when I did my first preceptorship back in the day.  I found through experience, students need and crave guidance and a bit of tough love to help them through the educational experience.  I wasn’t going anywhere for at least a couple of hours, so I decided to give him the benefit of my years of expertise.

The 4th year student returned and explained he consulted with the ER doctor and determined they needed to install an IV catheter and start me on fluids.  He asked if I didn’t mind, he would be installing the catheter. I agreed. As he was gathering and preparing the equipment, I shared with him my occupation and a bit about my experience, especially the training of neophytes.  I asked how many catheters he had placed during his rotation in the ER.  He replied, “a few and I am pretty good at it.”  I replied, “OK.  You get one stick.”  That got his attention.

He applied the tourniquet to my left arm and began palpating for a vein. Eventually he decided on one and installed the catheter.  He finished and proudly asked, “So how was that?”  I replied, “Pretty good, let’s see if it works now.” He started the fluids and the area around the catheter began to swell, indicative it was not correctly installed.  He stopped the fluids and began to leave the room to get the nurse.  “Where are you going?  You need to get this catheter going!” I barked.  He asked, “What about “You get one stick.”  I replied with the modified classic response of one of my major professors, “You know why God gave me two arms and lots of veins? Because he knew you were going to be a doctor.”  He smiled and prepped to try again.

On the third try, we had a functional catheter.  Sometimes education is a little uncomfortable.

Dr. Pierre Bland is the owner of Dr. Bland’s Vet House Calls.  He can be reached at 954-673-8579 or at doctorblandvet.com.