Last year for the first few months my heart rate shot up to about 140 every time the code pager went off. I learned to do femoral lines in the middle of a code, with no pulse, and the patient bouncing around so much that you couldn’t have found the pulse anyway if it had existed. I had no idea how my juniors managed to remain so calm about a pulseless patient and me waving long needles in the air in the middle of the chaos.

Now I’m smiling coolly when the new interns look at their code pagers and express some concern about being responsible for putting in lines, when they’ve never done any yet. Don’t worry, I tell them, you’ll learn just fine; I’ll come and watch.

Because I know, if they don’t get it, I will. Sooner or later. Me panicking won’t make the patient’s heart come back any faster, so we might as well take it easy, and do the line neatly.

(Now let’s see what happens the next night I’m on call, and how well that works in practice. And don’t worry, if they really need the line immediately, I’ll make sure it gets in sooner rather than later.)

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