E-Memoirs

Stethoscopes

Joy Behar is an idiot. I think by now most have heard her comments following the Miss America pageant when Miss Colorado, a nurse, chose to use her talent window as a platform to discuss her profession. “Why does she have a doctor’s stethoscope around her neck?” Joy Behar asked. Wow. As a doctor, I am embarrassed for her. As a human being, I am embarrassed for her. I have never watched The View and if I had considered doing so before this point, I won’t bother now.

Here’s my two cents about the world of nurses from a physician’s standpoint:

We are nothing without them.

I read a post from a nurse friend last night that broke down how often medical professionals actually use their stethoscopes. She stated a doctor might round on a patient in the hospital once every 24 hours, a respiratory therapist every 8 hours or so but your nurse…pretty much every hour. Checking on you and listening to your heart, lungs, abdomen with their stethoscope. Not one they borrowed from a doctor, mind you, but their actual very own nurse’s stethoscope.

As a plastic surgeon, I have a stethoscope. It was a gift from my Cardiologist father when I graduated from medical school. It’s an amazing, high end stethoscope…a Littmann™ Master Cardiology. I sheepishly asked my father when he gave it to me, ‘what does that mean….Master Cardiology?’ He explained it has a floating diaphragm to allow you to pick up first and second heart sounds by applying differing degrees of pressure. Huh? If you see a Plastic Surgeon wearing a stethoscope around their neck, it’s OK to laugh. Because all that a Plastic Surgeon is really accomplishing with that stethoscope is to perhaps hear that the heart is actually beating to circulate the Ancef they were given prior to incision. Important side note here: no one should ever ‘wear’ a stethoscope around their neck. It’s not jewelry. Convenient to have available, perhaps, but nasty because just think about what it might have been dragged through over the course of a day. Gross.

Back to nurses, which is actually my point here, not stethoscopes. I am smart enough to know that if you have the nurses on your side, your life will be eternally better. As a new doctor, you are green and dumb…and scared. If someone says they aren’t or weren’t, they are lying. I remember very well being on call my first night as a newly minted General Surgery intern on the Cardiovascular service. In the ICU, with patients so sick and an so many drips, I was terrified and completely overwhelmed. The nurses for the most part have been doing their job for many, many years. I would imagine it would suck to have to wait for ‘suggestions’ from the snotty nosed brat young doctor when they know exactly what to do with their patients. I was handed a blood gas and did not have a clue what to do. I was smart enough to ask for help. And that was the difference between life and death for me for the duration of my training. I learned SO much from these nurses. They took care of me….no one really needs an order for a stool softener at 2 am but some young bucks fielded those type of phone calls because they were the ‘doctor’.

My father, the Cardiologist, is a bad ass with a stethoscope. Sincerely. He could probably guess your weight, tell your fortune and pick your lottery numbers just by listening to you. I’m sure there are many others with the same skills. Not me. How unusual that one little piece of equipment to those that are uninformed…and I mean you, Joy Behar…is iconic as belonging to only a doctor. All the stethoscopes in the world cannot make you a better doctor if you don’t have nurses to help you, to guide you. I hope that Ms. Behar does not find herself in an emergency room in the near future because I think the only thing her nurse might do with her stethoscope is to resist the urge to wrap it around her neck.

So cheers to you, my nursing friends. I am eternally grateful to all that have taught me, me protected me, loved me. I am a better doctor because of all of you and completely worthless without you. Too many to mention here but you know who you are. Don’t let the dummies get you down. As we all know, you can’t fix stupid. Even with your stethoscope.

Here’s up to it!

E