Somewhere around my fourth day in third year, I realized that if I turned my beeper to vibrate instead of a ringtone, then I wouldn’t have to do the awkward ritual of pulling it out whenever a beeper went off anywhere in the vicinity, and checking to see if it was mine. This was kind of a non-issue in medical school, because the number of times anyone actually had to page me could be counted on one hand for the whole week.

Now, of course, I think it’s the only thing that keeps me from intentionally forgetting my beeper at home, or non-accidentally dropping it out of the thirteenth story window, or spilling coffee all over it. At least when it does go off, every five minutes, it’s quiet. I hate beeping noises. They mean time to wake up, or time to run to the ER, or time to call a code. Somehow when the beeper buzzes instead of beeping, it’s less of a frantic interruption, and more of a private message.

The downside is that no one else knows I’ve been paged. Somehow me standing there staring at the beeper doesn’t stop the attending’s discussion of five arcane causes of medication-induced pancreatitis the way a beeping beeper does. It also doesn’t work as well as an excuse to walk out during conference, or during a talk with a patient.

The first week I had the beeper, I was almost hallucinating. I was so jumpy about it that I used to imagine it was buzzing when nothing was going on at all, and I did exactly what I’d been trying to avoid, pull it out every other minute to look at it. Now, with a little more experience, I’ve realized 1) the real buzz is unmistakable, and 2) just in case I do miss a page, they’ll call me again in two minutes; so no need to worry.

Actually I don’t hate my beeper as much as I thought I would. After two months, it still feels vaguely nice to be wanted by somebody, even though I’m usually wanted for the purpose of asking an annoying question, reminding me that I failed to enter something correctly in the computer, or generally dumping scut on. It’s still so much nicer to be the intern, and useful for something at all, than a med student, who can’t do orders (which is, in nurses’ eyes, what interns exist for: making official what they want to get done). Other than that, it’s a way to communicate with the other residents. I page them too much to object to being paged back.

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