Tales from the Radiology Department

I suppose it was only a matter of time before I ended up accidentally requesting something stupid through the computerised investigation request system that I am now shackled to.

I’m not entirely a dinosaur. Not like the London hospital that I rang not too terribly long ago, who said that they couldn’t give me the information I was after because the notes from those days were all stored on microfilm — those days was four years ago and my medical student had to pick up my jaw from where I’d dropped it before I could carry on the conversation. I am, though, quite attached to the idea of using a biro to write out a radiology or blood request on a radiology or blood request form. I may be a baby dinosaur.

Last week, I answered a page from a radiographer.

RADIOGRAPHER

It’s about your MRI request.

BETH

OK. What can I do for you?

I was only just back in the office after dropping off an MRI request, so this didn’t seem like such a very unreasonable call. Incidentally, apropos of my Dr Dinosaur temperament, I should say that I would be a lot more on board with using a computerised system if after typing and submitting my request I wasn’t also required to print it out and hand deliver it, like a carrier pigeon with opposable thumbs.

RADIOGRAPHER

You’ve requested an MRI for Mr Smith.

BETH

 No. I’ve requested an MRI for Miss Jones.

RADIOGRAPHER

You’ve requested one for Mr Smith, too.

Something else that it’s taken a little bit of time to get used to is that I don’t have a pager. My ward has a ward pager which is shared amongst the three SHOs who usually work here. This means that when I get paged about investigations, it’s not necessarily me that they’re looking for.

BETH

It must have been someone else who requested that. [I have no earthly idea why Mr Smith might need an MRI, but this is called grasping at straws.] How can I help you?

RADIOGRAPHER

Dr Elizabeth Routledge?

The computer system thinks that I’m called Elizabeth. I blame my parents.

BETH

Okay. So apparently I did request that. Out of curiosity, what did I write in the request box?

RADIOGRAPHER

Hypercalcaemia. Query Paget’s Disease.

This put paid to the possibility that I had merely selected the wrong patient on my ward list when trying to request the MRI that I actually remembered requesting, as the other thing I remembered doing was going into quite a lot of detail about Miss Jones’s spinal cord compression.

BETH

[in manner of Sherlock Holmes solving great mystery] Ah! No, I didn’t request an MRI for him. I requested plain films. Yesterday.

RADIOGRAPHER

Yes, and you also requested an MRI. I’ve talked to the radiologist and she says that an MRI isn’t indicated in Paget’s Disease.

BETH

It isn’t, which is why I didn’t request one.

RADIOGRAPHER

You must have done. It was through the computer. MRI Femur. And it’s got your name on and you have to put your password in when you use the computer, so it couldn’t have been anyone else who requested it.

BETH

[very very quietly] Oh. Femur. [internal swearing and backpedaling] I’m sorry. I thought I had requested a plain film of the femur.

RADIOGRAPHER

Well, you requested an MRI, and my radiologist is refusing to do it because it isn’t clinically indicated.

RADIOLOGIST

[offstage, clearly thinking that I’m pleading my case]

It’s not!

BETH

Yeah, it’s really not. [even quieter] I did wonder why it was asking me all the metallic foreign body questions for a plain X-ray…

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