I Hate My Beeper

I hate my pager. Not in the playful, joking sort of way, but in a deep loathing, "I want to throw you out the window and see you smash into hundreds of tiny pieces," kind of way. The shrill chirp of the beeper attached to my scrubs is enough to make my heart sink in an instant.

It didn't used to be this way. When I was in high school before cell phones became popular, beepers were so cool! Your friends could beep you and you'd call back. What could be better? Through college beepers were the things I saw doctors wear. My insatiable desire to become one of them made me covet the rectangular pieces of technology. In medical school, having a beeper meant you were a part of the team. Your senior could beep you to do an admission or to find out where you were so you could meet up with your team. Even my fist could of months as an intern when I did emergency medicine propagated the myth that beepers are cool. I wore it around like a beacon declaring my physician-hood, attached to my scrubs, ready to go off at any moment. Of course, it never did. No one beeps you in the emergency room, you're always right around the corner. At worst you'll be paged overhead if there's someone on the phone for you.

After spending months outside the emergency department and having heard my beeper chirp at me from 7:00 AM in the morning until noon the next when I'm on-call, I'm more than happy to exclaim my deep disgust of my beeper. It's not even the calls that bother me. Usually the matter is remedied quickly with a simple verbal order. On the occasion that I have to examine and assess a patient, they're usually sick and need attention or reassurance. I'm more than happy to provided both of those things for my patients. It's the incessant chirping of the bugger that nags at me.

So here's the positive side of the story. I'll only have a beeper for another two-and-a-half years. After that, working in the emergency room won't require being beeped. On one of my calls last month I received a 3:30 AM Trauma call for a gunshot wound to the thigh. My curly hair was matted from an all-too-brief two hours of sleep, and my attending physician asked me if I was in fact awake. I responded with a tired yawn and the truth, "No." The patient had of course been minding his own business when someone shot him in the leg for an unknown reason. He left against medical advice when he learned that he would not die, had not broken any bones in his wounded leg, and simply needed to be washed out to cleanse the wound. I'm so glad my career choice has ensured that I'll have no 2:00 AM "Can I give this patient Tylenol for their fever?" beeps. And I couldn't be happier. Soon enough I'll be able to sing in the words of Pink Floyd "No more teachers, no more schoolbooks, no more crayons or erasers, … teachers leave those kids alone!"

I was watching TV a couple of days ago when a commercial aired with an alarm clock that sounded identical to my beeper's alarm. Needless to say, I won't be buying any yuletide fresh-roast Folger'sä decaf coffee anytime soon. Here's to you my beeper. Your execution by being flung from the helipad of the hospital has been stayed another 913 days.

--Andrew Jacques ('05)