A few months ago, while working night shifts at Ben Taub Hospital, I received a page from one of the internal medicine residents I was supervising. Night shifts have their busy times and their lulls, and the resident surprised me during a quiet period. On the phone, she told me that one of her patients kept calling the nurses, telling them he was having a heart attack. The man had been admitted for an entirely different problem, a urinary tract infection.
The resident quickly relayed to me the patient’s history, the quality of his symptoms — including the fact that the pain started immediately after his last meal — and the results of the electrocardiogram and blood tests. At the end of his presentation, I asked for the evaluation. “I’m not too worried,” she concluded. Finding nothing to fault with his reasoning, I agreed, and so we both quickly came up with a plan of care for the rest of the night. “I’m a few floors down in my office if you need me,” I told him. I hung up the phone and immediately turned my attention to the computer screen on my desk in Ben Taub, from which I had been streaming an episode of “Better Call Saul.” My heels fell into their usual place next to the monitor as I began to settle in for the rest of the night.