I was in the elevator of the hospital, making my way downstairs to the cafeteria, during my 30 minute break. We were in the middle of a cardiology lab group, using the simulators and standardized patients with ventriloscopes to learn abnormal heart sounds. I was wearing jeans and a sweater, but I had my stethoscope slung around my neck.
When the elevator doors opened on the 4th floor, a woman in plain clothes got onto the elevator.
"Ugh! I can't wait to get out of this place! I'm so sick and tired of seeing the inside of the walls of this building!"
She was waiting for a response from me, and not knowing what to say, I jumped into empathy mode.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," I replied. "Is one of your loved ones in the hospital?"
"No!," she snapped at me, crinkling her eyebrows. "I work here. Why would I be sick of seeing this place if I was just a family member?"
Umm, I don't know. Maybe because you're so worried that you stay in the hospital night and day, hovered over your husband and making sure that you're there each and every time the doctor rounds, so that you can ask questions? Maybe it was a traumatic injury that brought your daughter here, and now, all that you can equate the lavender walls with is the feeling of suffering and loss? Maybe you're just overwhelmed with the tragedies of life, like most of us are at any given time, and can't stand the sight of the place that is holding them?
Like I said, the woman wasn't wearing a white coat or scrubs, and she didn't have a visible badge anywhere on her. How in the world would I be able to figure out that she was a doctor?
I don't think I had the gumption to say that I was sorry for apparently offending her, because I was so stunned. When the elevator opened in the lobby, I mused to myself about how ridiculous some people can be...until it hit me.
Maybe she's some super high up big wig, whom I should have just recognized. I bet she's a clerkship or residency director. Let's hope that I don't find out on the first day of 3rd year--when she gives me the stink eye. Do you think I'll at least get points for spontaneous empathetic responses?