Monday, January 23, 2012

Is there a doctor on the plane? Better check his ID.

So here I sit, delayed, en route again to Las Vegas.  On my last trip out there I was awakened by the call that all medical students secretly crave, and all physicians loathe... "Is there a doctor on the plane?"

Grabbing my shoes in my right hand and bounding towards the front I arrived to find out what was going on.  It turns out a youngish gentleman had falled to one knee and potentially passed out while attempting to go to the bathroom.  By the time I arrived he was awake and seated and looked only a little worse for the wear.  A quick conversation with him and his friend indicated the likely cause-- an 80 degree airplane (couldn't they open a window?) and an afternoon of drinking had left him fairly dry, and he suffered a bit of the old vasovagal syncope.  With the assistance of another passenger, a nurse, I was able to barely obtain vitals with the loud plane and the small stethoscope.

The three flight attendants were variably helpful, one accurately reading the situation and supplying the water & juice, ice packs and vomit bag that I requested.  A second was insistent that oxygen would help, and so I obliged.  But the third...  the third one was there to do the paperwork.  It looks like healthcare is the same everywhere.  Thankfully she wrote most of what I was saying down so I didn't have to write a visit note myself (As though I were submitting a bill).

Things got very interesting when I asked what was in the medkit. I observed a small back pack size kit that was "very well-equipped" but no one could accurate describe the contents.  I asked if we could open the kit so I could familiarize myself with the tools.  Not that our patient needed any more services than we were currently providing, but I have learned to know my tools and plan ahead.  I was told repeatedly that unless I knew what I wanted out of the kit (impossible as I did not know the contents), that they did not want to open it because they would have to call it in and fill out yet more paperwork.  Understandable I guess, but who decided to set the paperwork bar so damn high?  Had the gentleman been sicker am I really supposed to negotiate with someone at 30,000 feet about how much paperwork they have to do?

Fortunately our patient did well and no drastic decisions were required.  At the conclusion of the who situation I received a brief thanks from the staff, and then it happened.  "Um, Doctor... can we have a copy of your medical license?"

AFTER?!?!  Barely a thank you, not to mention the free drink or upgrade my family or friends insist I rightfully deserve, (I am not so naive...), but after I have rendered a service and made a medical decision, that is your chief concern, to make sure I am not faking?

I am sure the on board medical emergency policy was decided upon by very intelligent folks with a great background, not at 30,000 feet, but from an airline that prides itself on service (and usually delivers), I felt that the entire situation was odd a best and stinking of litigation fear at worst.

I am flying again tonight, and if called I will be there.  But I really hope I can sleep on my now delayed flight to Las Vegas.

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