When I was a medical student, and had nothing to do but shadow attendings, it usually took me less than a day to memorize their stock phrases: lines of introduction, questioning, explanation, even pleasantries, jokes, and stories, that they tended to repeat to every single patient, with very little variation. It bored me to tears, because every single doctor had his own set of phrases that he repeated all day long to every patient. To the patients it was new, but since I could have recited it myself, having to listen to it for four weeks was maddening.

I promised myself I would never fall into such a rut.

One year and three months in, I listen to myself on morning rounds, and I’m boring myself. This is bad.

I know why it is, though. At first, I was so shy about walking into people’s rooms, waking them up at unearthly hours of the morning, asking them personal questions, and then trying to reassure them about the day’s events while at the same time extracting myself from the room in the minimum amount of time. With trial and error, by the end of intern year, I had figured out the phrases guaranteed to net me the most information about how the patient was doing (nausea/vomiting, bowel function, eating, out of bed) while giving the least opening for extraneous anecdotes, as well as the answer to the question “what happens next?” which would seem to give information while also emphasizing that my attending really makes the decisions, not me.

And now I just repeat those lines over and over. Path of least resistance.

I thought I would be at least middle-aged before I bored myself. 

Even when I have to explain something – cholecystitis, pancreatitis, need for NG tube, need to remain npo for another day – I have stock phrases for those too. And a generic reference to the city’s pro sports teams, if the tv is on. I need a speechwriter, is what I need.

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