The Observation Room. Eight beds, separated by curtains, which gives the illusion of privacy, but of course any conversation can be heard clear across the room. My colleague Karla is in Bed 5 helping a patient on the pan; I’m next door in 6 with a 40 year-old post-op hyster who’s come in with wound dehiscence. She has a very doting family, who have supplied flowers, chocolates and also very cute stuffed monkey, which the patient has placed by her pillow.
Dr. Jove, her surgeon and generally a lovely man, comes bustling in, all bluff good cheer and exuding a well-fed happiness and concern.
Do you want the family to leave so you can examine the patient? I ask.
Oh, no, says Dr. Jove. Not to worry. I’ll tent, I’ll tent. By which he means he will examine at the patient by making a tent of the blankets, and looking underneath. Voila! Patient modesty is preserved and the family can feel like it’s part of the health care team.
And so, like a magician, Dr. Jove makes a tent, and examines (from the bottom up) the patient, sighing and making tsk-tsk noises.
He looks up at the patient.
“Nice monkey,” he says, meaning the stuffed animal.
A pause, then a small, plaintive voice from the other side of the curtain. Karla has been listening.
“He didn’t really call it a monkey, did he?”