When a resident of student presents a patient with me and I help them formulate a plan, we call it “staffing” the case. Recently while I was staffing, I was presented with a patient who speaks little English, but speaks another language fluently. Unfortunately for us, this language wasn’t Urdu, Spanish, French, Romanian, or Hindi (languages spoken by the people immediately within my reach). The medical instructions we needed to give were fairly complex—too complex for Pidgin English, so I paged one of my interns.
“Hey, S.,” I said, “how well do you speak (insert little-known language here)?”
“Quite well, why?”
“Well, I have a nice older woman who speaks it as well, and her resident happens to be graduating. She could really use your care, both for your medical skills and your language skills.”
“You can put her in my schedule as soon as you need to. If there aren’t any openings soon, tell her to come right at 1pm and I’ll just see her before I start my clinic.”
But some things aren’t taught—you just know them. My resident just knew the right thing to do. Despite her hellish schedule, she offered time to a patient in need. This behavior is not a given. It is the mark of a true physician.