"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tales From The Trenches: The Prank

When I started out as a tech, I was the noob at a big specialty hospital. The student. I was hired with 0 experience because I impressed the manager with my desire to learn but mainly because I was going to be working some shifts that no one wanted as a tech assistant. I had days of experience to the decades that my technician teammates had. It was absolutely intimidating but I admired those girls to pieces. My favorites were the Saturday overnight techs, whom I will call Stacy and Jenna. They were best friends outside of work and had worked together for a very long time, so they were my first example of a symbiotic tech team working together (I have another post in the works on that for later). They both had a couple of loose screws which is what made them so much fun to work with. They had about 35 years of experience between the two of them and they were only in their 30's. These girls were amazing. They could look at an animal and know what was wrong with it at a glance, predict exactly what treatments would be necessary before the doctor started her physical exam, and they had the advanced skill set to do pretty much anything required from placing a central line to interpreting an EKG. To me, the noob, they were goddesses.

This was a teaching hospital, so we had interns and residents. The interns rotated through all of the hospital's departments, including the ER/ICU, which was a single unit there. Since it was a 24 hour hospital, interns also alternated between daytime and overnight critical care.

A lot of clients don't understand this, but vet interns are fully licensed doctors. The majority of them are just out of school, taking on an internship at a specialty hospital because they either simply want more advanced experience before going into general practice, or because that internship is the groundwork for the residency that they will be doing afterwards towards the specialty of their choice. Some interns may already have prior experience working in general practice; they may have decided to get some experience out in the real world before taking a step back to do their internship so they can follow that up with a residency. Veterinary interns are paid next to nothing; they make less than a vet tech, and they work insane 80+ hour weeks. They are under huge amounts of stress, they do not get paid overtime, they do not get a cut of the cases they see, they are paid a set amount for the year and are expected to work their asses off in the meantime. A lot of vet interns go by on 4 hours of sleep between one shift and the next. They can't leave the hospital until their last referral letter or case transfer is written. If that intern saw 9 cases on the emergency shift, that's a lot of paperwork that they have to do, on top of keeping up with the hospitalized patients in their care.

At this particular hospital, a resident accompanied the interns throughout the overnight, but he only liked to be bothered for the more complicated cases. Thus, it was especially important to have highly experienced and skilled techs at night because the interns ended up relying on the technicians' knowledge so heavily. This is very common in teaching hospitals: at some of them, the interns are completely by themselves and have to rely entirely on the knowledge and skills of the technicians working with them. The techs are there as a buffer to catch mistakes in drug dosages, to question any loopholes in the treatment plan, to answer questions the intern might have, to guide the intern through advanced procedures that they might be doing for the first time, like unblocking a cat with a urinary obstruction or doing a pericardiocentesis. At the same time, the techs are expected to be respectful of the intern because they are, after all, doctors. In the end, the tech must do what the doctor says, even if the tech doesn't agree with it.

At this particular hospital, the internship was grueling. It is the only internship so far that I've seen break new doctors. One of the interns in this class, whom I shall call Dallas, was one of the meanest, surliest doctors I have ever worked with. I don't know if there was a reason behind this, but she had a personal vendetta against techs in general, and especially the techs whom she was supposed to be learning from. She was notorious for making techs cry. She was brilliantly smart but a lot of people weren't fans of her style of doing medicine, including clients. This did get her into trouble with some of her seniors. And I will remind you what I said above about veterinary internships in general + this was one of the toughest internships I have witnessed so far. Additionally, you never really know what is going on in an individual's personal life. Who knows the cause of her meanness; the internship itself was more than enough. That said, there's no excuse for lashing out at the people that are trying to help you. 

As the end of her internship was approaching, Stacy and Jenna decided they were done with Dr. Dallas's nasty attitude.

We had a wet table with a faucet and hose. To use the hose, you had to turn on the faucet and squeeze the trigger on the hose. This was also the main faucet where doctors and techs washed their hands.

Stacy and Jenna did this with the hose with a piece of black Vetrap:

Dr. Dallas walked into the ICU after she was done with an emergency and went straight to the wet table faucet to wash her hands.

She got sprayed right smack in the face by the hose.

Jenna and Stacy, who had been working on inpatient bills at the time in a nook of the ICU, almost fell out of their chairs laughing. I pretended to have to do something somewhere else and was able to run out of the room before bursting out laughing.

Of course Dr. Dallas tried to report Stacy and Jenna to the hospital manager for their prank. The manager also happened to be one of our ICU technicians and he had seen firsthand her attitude towards the techs in general. He, too, burst out laughing when Dallas told him what had happened. Of course no action was taken against the girls, though the manager did warn them that now Dallas really had their number.

It made the remainder of Dallas's internship bearable to those of us that had to work with her. Every time she was snotty, rude or mean, all we had to do was imagine her getting sprayed in the face by the cold water of the hose, which invariably made us smile even in the middle of one of her tirades.

This story does have a happy ending: Dr. Dallas finished her internship, continued to practice veterinary medicine, and went on to become a behaviorist. If there ever was a specialty that required being in tune with your clients and patients, it is animal behavior. I like to think that somewhere along the way things got so much better for her. It's a wonderful thing when you find your true calling in life. She seems to be a very happy person now.


  1. Funny, my son pulled the same prank on me when he was about eight. I was soaked. He laughed so hard he hurt himself.

    1. Lol!! Yup, it was definitely the kind of prank that a child would have pulled, which is what made it so great. Dallas didn't really even have to change her coat; only her face got wet. But she was so, so, soooo mad that she didn't speak to any of us for the rest of the night...which was awesome. Hahaha...

  2. I've gotten three installments now, so I want you to know that if you ever stop, I'm going to be soooo disappointed;) These are great!

    1. The more of these I write, the more stories want to be told! I have like 6 more of these in the works at the moment. ;) So there's plenty more a-coming! I'm glad you're enjoying them!