Dr. Who Do You Think You Are

| USA | Working | June 24, 2013

(I am a medical lab scientist. A doctor has requested an ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) test and marked it STAT. Though STAT means “now,” ESR is defined as the distance that the erythrocytes settle in one hour and our lab does not have the capability to alter that time.  A doctor calls on the phone.)

Me: “Hematology central lab. My name is [name], and I’m a medical lab scientist. What can I do for you?”

Doctor: “I requested a stat. It’s not back and it’s been 35 minutes.”

Me: “Okay, can I have the accession number so I can look that up for you?”

Doctor: *gives me the number*

Me: “Okay, I see the problem.  We are processing that stat, but the procedure is not completed yet.  It’s an ESR and we aren’t going to be able to get that to you for at least 45 more minutes.”

Doctor: “But it’s stat!”

Me: “I understand that, and we are processing it as such.”

Doctor: “I went to medical school, where they taught us that stat means ‘now.'”

Me: “And I went to college in MLS where they taught me that, too.  But we simply cannot speed up the actual procedure.  It’s impossible.”

Doctor: “If I had wanted it an hour and a half from when I sent it to you, I wouldn’t have put stat on there.”

Me: “I don’t mean to sound presumptuous, but do you know what an ESR is?”

Doctor: “Of course I do. It’s a test that indicates inflammation.”

Me: “I didn’t ask you knew what it meant.  I asked if you know what it is.”

Doctor: “Of course I do.  I’m a doctor.”

Me: “Then you would know that ESR is a measure of sedimentation in the space of an hour.”

Doctor: “Well, here’s a novel idea.  Settle it for ten minutes and then multiply.”

Me: “It isn’t linear. There are testing systems and chemicals that can speed it up, but we are a rural hospital and we don’t have access to those.  It will take the hour to run the test, as well as the time it took to set up the test, enter the accession data and then the interpretation time.  It was started as soon as we received it, and we’ll process the results as soon as we get them.  But I’m sorry that we can’t get it sooner.  I understand it’s important, but I can’t change this.”

Doctor: “Make time go faster, then.”

Me: “…I can’t do that.”

Doctor: “I’m a doctor and I told you to!”

Me: “The only way that I know of making time go at a different speed is Lorentzian contraction.  Since I am bound by the laws of physics, and don’t know how to bend space like that, I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait.”

Doctor: “But I’m a doctor.  I told you to do it faster!”

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