Wednesday, October 13, 2004

a note about the ER

From time to time, I will talk about what I saw and did while working a shift in the Emergency Department. I wanted to say a couple things about how I do that. The following applies in perpetuity, since it's my standard practice in person, out loud, in text, in public and in private.

1) Patient confidentiality is so important that it actually trumps a good story. There will be things I just plain can't write about. When this is the case, I'll talk about something else that's approximately (...and this is a goal, not a promise...) 75% as entertaining. That's my pledge of quality to you, the reader.

1a) There will be no real patient names used. If a patient's name is so cool I have to talk about it, I'll make up a name that's 75% as funny or interesting, in a germane and similar way. A patient named Blender DuPree might be changed to SaladShooter Delacroix, or maybe I'll save that analagous name for some other story. Remains to be seen. (Okay, suddenly I need to go write a hard-boiled mystery novel set in a Baton Rouge Appliance Mart.) Any name you see in a story is so totally fake. Don't worry about who's who. And anyway, I change identifying details all the time, unless they're vitally important to the story and keeping them specific and correct doesn't identify the patient.

2) I tend not to talk about exactly where I work. I don't like to name people, buildings, streets, or areas of the hospital that might have catchy names. Not that it's a big secret, but I am by no means a representative of the hospital in any real sense (unless of course you're a patient; if that's the case, then I'm the human face of the organization, I'm an ambassador, and because I want for you to understand how much we appreciate and value you, I'd like to know is there anything else I can do to help you today?).

And frankly, I don't ever want to have to have a conversation with a lawyer about something I once said on the Internet. That would be a really nonsensical way to mess up my career before it ever starts. Telling a story (or even arguing) years from now, about a decision I made as a resident, which I thought was right and best for a patient in my care? Well heck, that's compelling drama. Not being able to do residency at all because I alienated, mis-quoted, or accidentally annoyed someone would be crushingly stupid. And avoidable.

3) After all the above, believe me: it can still be funny. And close observers (or people who know me outside of here) will be able to piece together the not-too-subtle clues. I'm not relying on a cloud of secrecy. But I'm not speaking in any capacity other than my own personal view. That's bigger than one job at one hospital (since I plan to have many of them, in many places). At the same time, it's much much smaller, and more specific.

Capisce? Okay, then.


Anonymous said...

Um, be very careful writing about work. Some have been fired for this, even though the place of business was unidentifiable.

-- GS

Anonymous said...

Um, be careful posting about work - more than one person has been fired for this ( Especially in the current days of HIPAA.

- GS

Anonymous said...
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Febrifuge said...

Hm. Interesting.

I am not a Dooce reader, but I know someone who is very much an afficionado. I'll ask about what happened, and how, and why.

I need to stress, I don't intend to ever talk about the workplace as a workplace, really. I don't tell fun stories about people in particular. I was thinking more along the lines of when people ask all those questions about "jeeez, what's it like to work in an emergency room? Is there blood? Is it crazy? Is it like on TV?"

And so I say it's cool, yes, yes, and no. Essentially that's it. There is a mass of med-blogs out there, where as you follow along, students become interns become residents. It's very cool. But thanks for the heads-up. The whole point is to be smart about it, and not ever have even a chance of having to face that Dooce scenario.