An improbable proportion of my week has been taken up this week with trying to get the results of a single blood test.
The majority of investigations that are done in my hospital are processed internally. A small number are sent to one of the teaching hospitals in Scotland, where there are bigger labs and the facilities to run investigations that are needed less often. And as I learned when I came into work on Monday, there are a very small number of investigations that are run by no labs in Scotland. I have therefore spent a lot of my time this week on the phone to a biochemistry lab in Abroad. (The south of England. Abroad.) Too much time, probably, as I’m on first name terms now with an English biochemist who, on Wednesday, promised that my result would be back by the end of the week.
So, late this afternoon, when my consultant began to swear that, if he had to tell his patient that she would have to wait for her results until Monday, he would be taking me into the room with him so that I could be used as a human shield, I got on the phone again.
A word of warning to any budding medics: an atrocious amount of your life as a junior doctor will be spent on the phone.
I squinted at the phone number that looked like I had scribbled it upside down with my left hand and a drying-up biro while simultaneously doing six other things. I probably had. I was on call yesterday and spent most of the evening writing phone numbers on my forearm.
“Hello?” said a man’s voice.
You might think that this would have been your first clue. But one of the local hospital switchboards routinely answers the phone with, “Hello,” which is why it took me five full minutes last week to work out that my switchboard had put me through to the wrong city.
“Hi!” I said. (I was in a ridiculously good mood.) “Is this the University Hospital of Englandshire Biochemistry Lab?”
There was a long pause.
No,” said the voice. “This is Mr Smith.”
That probably should have been my first clue. It was Friday afternoon and I’ve had a busy week. “Hello,” I said. “Are you based in the University Hospital of Englandshire?”
“No,” said Mr Smith. “I’m based in my house.”