Business was steady last night. I somehow managed to always have two or three patients still needing to be seen, no matter how diligently I worked on my list. But it was fair, because the night before I was quite bored.

I was always impressed, as a child, by my father’s memory for phone numbers. Any doctor he wanted, any nurses’ station in the hospital, he could dial from memory without hesitation. I couldn’t understand how he did it. He can pick up his cell phone, look at the number, and address the caller by name before they say anything.

It was force of repetition, of course. Get paged to a certain number ten times in one night, and you’ll know where it is. Similarly, have a nurses’ station that you need to call and check on five or six times in a night, and you’ll get tired of calling the operator to ask what the extension is. I know the recovery room phones, all the OR phones,¬†two or three phones at all the nursing stations for surgical units and the ICUs, the lab number, the CT number, most of the ER numbers, and some charge nurses’ numbers.

And then of course, there are the numbers to which I get paged infrequently enough that all the recognition I have of them is a sense of impending doom: I can’t remember who answered the last time I called this number, but it didn’t lead to anything happy. Those tend to be the ICU numbers, or else ER numbers that I don’t recognize yet, or else an area of the hospital that really shouldn’t need to talk to me, so if they do there’s something wrong.

Plus, there are the pager numbers and cell phone numbers for the other residents. Once you work with someone for a couple days, it gets tiresome to ask the operator to page them, and you learn the numbers by heart, and how to code your message to say that it’s you calling, and whether it’s urgent or not. (Our hospital has not progressed to the sophistication of letting the residents send their own text pages. We communicate, Morse style, by dots and dashes.)

I’m not quite up to my father’s level, though. He also practices pure telepathy: on phones with no caller ID, he can pick up the phone and know who’s calling before they say anything. I think it has to do with knowing how the patient flow is going, and who’s going to have a problem next, or perhaps whom he really would rather not hear from and therefore must be calling; but there has to be some telepathy, in addition.

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