It’s been a long time since I’ve had a patient imply that I was too young to be competent. Last night, though, one of the nurses stopped me outside the ER room and told me, “Don’t be offended, but they said they want a real doctor to do the procedure.”

Of course I was annoyed, but it was also funny, because I’d just been congratulating myself on how much experience I had with that procedure, and how quickly I would be able to do it. Since I’m now the senior surgery resident at night, the only available doctor more “real” than me would be the ER attending, and I hadn’t wanted to waste time by waiting for him to finish with all the other critical patients he was handling before getting around to the procedure, which I do all the time on my own outside the ER. (It was a bad night in the ER: three or four intubations in two hours, at least one arrest, and the ICU admitting team basically never got to leave. Plus traumas.) Served me right for being cocky, I guess.

I told the family very simply that I had done the procedure dozens of times and felt sure that I could do it safely, but I would be happy to go get the ER attending instead. I was just about out of the room to go find him, when they said no, go ahead, you do it.

After that I was sure I had set myself up for a complication, but it went just fine.

Not sure what the moral is. I knew I could do it, and I did. I thought I’d acquired a professional enough and confident enough manner that I wouldn’t be considered too obvious of a trainee any more, but apparently not. (I guess I’m going to turn into a feminist before I’m done: would a man my age, in my place, still be getting this response? Or maybe the family had just had enough hospital experience to be wary of residents with perhaps good reason. . . )

Only 8 more days of nights; and about time.