Good Clinical Practice II

Second in a multi-part story. First part. Third part.

Dr. Lazine stomped down the hallway. It was poorly-lit, stark green, and smelled of an industrial cleanser that had sat out for too long. The air was thick with desperation and defeat, from the overbooked emergency room to the overflowing biohazard bins. Such was commonplace at Samarya General. Publically funded and privately avoided, it was considered one of the best places to train physicians — which meant it was one of the worst places to be a patient.

Lazine had been an attending physician for over six years. He was officially a medical professional, but he was really a professional tyrant. The object of his ire today was Dr. Matthew Reighner, one of the junior residents in internal medicine. Reighner was the product of the nearby military medical school, the politically named Uniformed Services Health Sciences University. Lazine trained many of them, and if he knew only one thing, he knew this: they were all knuckleheads.

-- + --

"As a physician, everything you do will come under public scrutiny. Because many will give you unqualified trust, many will hold you to an unattainable standard. But you must try. You must hold yourself with respect and conduct yourself as a professional, both in the wards and on the streets."

-- + --

He flung the on-call door open and clicked the light on.

"Reighner!"

He saw the miscreant passed out on the bed. It seemed to the attending that he spent most of his time there.

In a bundle of bedsheets, Reighner bolted upright. His eyes were bloodshot. "Dr. Lazine, sir."

"Listen, Reighner. I know that you want to be a doctor, Gods help us, but at least make it seem that you really mean it."

Lazine opened the chart that he was holding.

"I want to share with you something one of your idiot fellow residents ordered for room fifteen."

He cleared his throat.

"Patient's gown is perilously loose. Please consult Dr. Reighner for garment change."

Reighner kept a straight face. He knew what was coming next.

"And here is what you, the primary idiot resident, ordered afterwards."

Lazine closed the chart and looked up at Reighner. There was hostility in his eyes.

"Please tell Dr. Price to go frak himself."

Reighner's lips quivered. "I'm sorry, sir."

Lazine stepped forward. He angled his head upward and his stared at Reighner along the length of his thin, hawkish nose. "Are you trying to make me look like an ass?"

"No, sir."

"You understand that these records are public?"

"Yes, sir."

"You also understand that I co-signed these orders?"

Reighner was caught by surprise. "I… I'm sorry, sir, I thought you'd read them first before…" His lips quivered again.

Lazine took in a sharp breath, flaring his nostrils. "You pull a stunt like this again and you're going to declare permanent residence in this hospital. You understand me?"

"Yes, sir."

Lazine smiled sweetly. "We're admitting five new patients today, doctor. Why don't you take two of them."

Reighner knew that things were making a turn for the worse. His knew that his protests wouldn't matter, but he also knew that he would have to say them. "I'm already following twenty three, sir."

"Well then you shouldn't mind another two. Bring it up to an even number."

The humor was gone, and his voice tightened into a neutral monotone. "Yes, sir."

"Good. Where's your doppelganger?"

"I don't know."

"Well, you let him know I'm looking for him. Morning rounds in an hour, doctor. Better get going." And then he was gone.

Reighner slumped onto the bed and rubbed his face. "Why do you do this, Matt," he mumbled. He stared at his reflection in the glass of tepid water on the nightstand. He searched for the reason that he became a doctor, flipped through the dozens of interviews, the pointless questions and the romanticized answers that were traded. He couldn't remember.

He stood, put on his white coat, and left the room.

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