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Fatigue.

I was one of them just two weeks ago, he thought as the interns approached him. They think I know what I’m doing just because I’m the senior resident.

His interns had admitted ten patients that night. They did the best that they could, but often needed his help. And then there were the two codes. He was tired.

The interns and medical students gathered around him for “pre-rounds”. He wanted them all to have updated information about the patients before meeting with the attending physician for “rounds“. With one hand he pulled a folded sheet of paper out of his long white coat. His other hand grasped a pen that was poised to write.

“Who is this?” he asked, pointing into a room. The intern who admitted the patient shuffled through her papers, pulled out a sheet, and began to rattle off the pertinent details about the patient. Everyone else looked at her, turning away occasionally to yawn into their hands.

“Thanks,” he said, walking into the room. They followed him in. He spoke quickly: “Hi, Ms. Patient. My name is Dr. Resident. I work with Dr. Intern here. Do you mind if I listen to your heart and lungs?”

Ms. Patient, who was poking at the slurry in her breakfast bowl with a plastic spoon, nodded.

She was in the waiting room for an hour. For the five hours she was in the emergency room, a woman in a neighboring space screamed in agony. Her nurse here had asked her many of the same questions asked of her while in the emergency room. She tried to sleep on the lumpy bed that was regularly inflating and deflating, but the beeping machines in the room and the discomfort in her chest would not let her rest.

She was tired.

After pulling the stethoscope down from his ears, Dr. Resident said, “Your lungs are a little noisy, but everything else sounds good.”

The squad of white coats surrounding her bed nodded.

“That’s good,” Ms. Patient murmured. Dr. Resident nodded and walked towards the door.

“Dr. Resident?” she called out.

Yawning, he snapped his mouth shut before turning around.

“Yes?”

“They did an X-ray this morning. Did it show anything?”

Dr. Resident nodded. “Yeah, they saw something, but they’re not sure what it is. It’s probably just a pneumonia, but it could be cancer. We’ll know more later.”

He breezed out. Her mouth opened slightly as she watched him leave. The interns and medical students all looked at each other, but not at her, their eyes wide and lips tight. They filed out silently after him.