Good Clinical Practice

First in a multi-part story. Part two. Part three.

-- + --

The old man walked onto the stage. They had said no flash photography, but nobody paid it any heed. He squinted in the harsh light of the cameras, and he braced his hands on the sides of the podium. His voice was craggly, his speech indistinct, but today he could find an audience no more patient and no more attentive.

A sea of immaculate white coats stood below him, unmoving, soldiers eager to join the fight. Their rank pins were the gold cadeuces pinned to their lapels. Their weapons were the stethescopes in their pockets.

The old man peered down at his speech. But, first things first.

"Please raise your right hands."

-- + --

"Matt!" The voice was impatient.

Reighner jolted. He sat up in the bed and groaned. Was he at home? His eyes focused on the on call roster pinned to the far wall. No such luck. "What the hell do you want?"

Price's head was stuck into the room. "That post-op in twenty eight wants to see you again."

He had had a dream. He rubbed his forehead, grasping at the fading memory. "Frak twenty eight. Send the intern."

"You and I both know that Reynolds would piss his pants."

"Reynolds needs to learn how to handle dumbass patients."

"Any more sleeping and I'd take you for a surgeon."

That always got him going. He climbed out of bed and shrugged on his white coat. There was a stain on the sleeve and it was just shy of smelling questionable. He punched a grinning Price as they left the on-call room. "Gods, I haven't seen my wife in a week."

Price shook his head. "You could've prevented that by never getting married."

"Remind me again, how many STDs do you have?"

"I think they discovered a new one in me yesterday."

A chart was passed. Reighner flipped it open and skipped the first page. Name and personal details weren't important. Chief complaint, present progress, plan of treatment. Five minute interaction window. It was the only way to keep profitable. "Remind me again why I care about this guy?"

-- + --

"You must always remember this. The whole of our profession is dedicated to the patient. Your duty is to honor that purpose. When you step into a patient's room, everything else must go away; your problems, your prejudices. You are their healer. You are their protector. You must never forget this."

Flash.

-- + --

He didn't close the door. He knew that this was frowned on, but he found that it led to faster outcomes. "Hello, I'm Dr. Reighner. This is Dr. Price. What seems to be bothering you today?"

Room twenty eight looked up at the two men. "My right foot's numb, doc."

"Mmm hmm." Reighner ran a gloved hand over the foot in question. "You've been in bed for a long time. Sometimes, you can pinch a nerve. Just try shifting around a little and let me know in a few hours if it changes."

He knew that look. The there's another question look. Reighner tried his best to appear uninterested.

The patient glanced between the two men, then at the door. He mumbled, "Thanks, doc."

"No problem." Reighner flashed a practiced smile and quickly left. He closed the door and rolled his eyes at Price. "This guy. My stitches itch, I have a headache, my stomach feels funny, and now this. I guess he thinks surgery is a spa visit." He raised a finger, dramatically. "I'm going back to bed. Don't wake me again unless he codes."

Price grinned. "No neuro consult, huh?"

But Reighner was already gone.

Price thought about it. This wasn't his patient, after all. He shook his head and walked away.

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