One of the ER Doc curses

I was reminded of one of our particular curses the other day, reminded in the way we often are, when somebody reacts to what we do. Sometimes embarrassingly.

Yesterday, I was taking a history, and this was of a patient with a long, complex one. That much I knew from a quick perusal of the EMR prior to going into the room.

So, I and my scribe were there, along with the patient and their family member; because of the medical problems, the family member was giving the history. Family member was pleasant, knowledgeable, and good. Terrific history, and it was flowing. On point, not too many spurious details, and I was enjoying it.

One detail was “…so we went home Saturday…”, a totally innocent thing, pertinent to the history, correct, and natural. That’s when I looked at my watch.

“I’m sorry, I’m trying to be as brief as I can” said the historian, and I realized what I’d done: I’d given the universal signal for ‘you’re taking a long time’, inadvertently.

(What I was trying to do would be familiar to every ER doc, I was looking at my watch because it tells me what day it is: we usually have no idea what day it is. Work 24/7/365 a few years, and that whole ‘work week’ is something to be envied; most of us are at work because we have a shift, not because we have any idea of time otherwise…).

I immediately interrupted and apologized, telling them what I just told you, but in briefer form (“I was looking to see what today is…”), and life moved on.

It did have me make a mental note, though, to be more surreptitious in looking at my watch: my orientation to the calendar won’t change until I retire.


  1. Mate, simple solution – don’t wear a watch. Infection control hazard that it is… ;-)

  2. Mrs. Fred says:

    Dear Son, Retired people (aka your parents) have the same problem from time to time! NOW you know why we now have specific days of the week to lunch at specific eateries.

  3. This post (and your mom’s comment) have me smiling. Have a great day, Gruntdoc!

  4. I joke with everyone that as an EM resident I exist through life AAOx2- alert and oriented to person and place only…its so true!

  5. keltset says:

    I have a similar problem when I go into “the walmart”. I can get completely disoriented as to the time, city, state. “Is this the one with a grocery store on the left or right… no thats the one at my mother-in-laws… no actually that was 2 homes and 2 states ago…”