Medicine is a profession based on science. Those of us who practice it approach the world in a rational way, using nothing but the best evidence available to make our decisions. When interpreting our experiences, we use naught but those findings that appeal to reason. We are a level-headed bunch.
Well, OK. Not entirely lies. While there’s more guesswork and bet-hedging in medicine than we’d like to admit, when it comes to patient care an evidence-based approach is the rule. But when it comes to how we deal with the world? Doctors are a ridiculously superstitious bunch, and none more so than me.
Consider the notion of one’s “cloud,” which can be black or white. The cloud hovers over your nights or weekends or weeks (or whatever) on call, and indicates how likely you are to be slammed with calls or admissions or what have you. Those with black clouds get woken by phone calls every two hours and get three complicated admits on the first night.
I refuse to discuss what color my cloud is. (I feel like I’m tempting fate even alluding to it.) So chary am I of disrupting the status quo that I won’t talk about it at all. One provider who used to work in our office had a notoriously dark cloud, and since leaving there is muttering that whenever someone covers a week that used to be hers they still bear the bad luck. “Oh,” we’ll say after a colleague has a rough call. “It was Esther’s week. That explains it.” As though that really does explain it.
This behavior is completely independent of any given person’s intelligence, mind you. One of my colleagues, perhaps the smartest and most competent pediatrician I’ve ever met, refused to say anything when I asked her a little while ago if she had any patients to round on when she took over call. Not one word, for fearing of jinxing herself and getting slammed with admissions when she (I presume) had none.
But there’s more!
There are words you are not even allowed to speak in my presence at work. You are never allowed to comment that things are the “Q-word” (opposite of loud, rhymes with “riot”) and never, ever to complain that you are the “B-word” (opposite of rapt, rhymes with “horde”). Never. If either of those words are mentioned within earshot I immediately lunge for the nearest hunk of wood and start knocking frantically. This is because, in a superstition that lingers from residency, I believe that the Powers that Be will hear those words used, and will move to liven things up in the worst possible way. If one wishes to impart goodwill toward a coworker who is taking over call, one may wish for an “uneventful” week. But never the Q-word.
This is all, of course, utterly preposterous. And yet lunge and knock I do.
So that is this week’s Question. Do you have any superstitions? A lucky briefcase? Do you wear the same pair of socks before important sales meetings? Bonus points for weird rituals or taboos that you share with other members of your profession.