Friday, December 17, 2010

New Office

About a year and a half ago, I was told that I needed to move out of my office. The hospital is doing a staged, multi-gazillion dollar Emergency Department remodel - and my tiny corner office is slated to become a small portion of the new lab storage closet. The ED has been slowly taking over the pathology lab for the past couple of years - toxicology has moved away, the lab break room is shrinking. I've seen the pictures - the new ED is going to be incredible. A sharp contrast to our 1950's hospital lab decor, but after all, the ED is the gateway to the public, so that is where we as a hospital need to shine. The lab is never seen, so updating our environment is not a priority. Last December, I was visited by various men in suits and construction outfits, informing me in serious tones that the move was imminent.

Back in September, nine months after this hushed meeting, the men returned.

"A major contract decision was finally reached. You will probably move sometime this month. Things are going to start moving quickly now."

Luckily, they planned to build me an office before kicking me out of mine. I had several meetings with a bigwig hospital architect - picking colors of walls, floors, and desktop formica. We decided how we were going to reconvene my current desk furniture into a new longer but narrower space. They were taking up a portion of the lab test draw waiting area, an area that currently becomes fast-track ED waiting in the late afternoon/early evening. I hoped that the walls would be thick enough to block out sound. It gets kind of loud and crazy in there.

As construction began about six weeks ago, my new office became the buzz of our small pathology world. Asbestos removal necessitated an outer wall to be built around the construction, and eventually the next door office, housing part-time pathologists like jazz pianist extraordinaire Rex Bell, was evacuated. Then the procedure room, where we perform all of our fine needle aspiration biopsies (FNAs). Procedures were turfed to the fast-track ED, which is not too far away. The pathologist performing the procedures, and cytotechs assisting, were not too miffed - after all the new rooms were much more modern clinical spaces and God forbid someone actually having a medical emergency while we were sticking a 25 gauge needle into their lump or bump - well, we would have back-up help. Not that any patient has ever done anything beyond fainting, but still. As one of my senior partners says, the last doctor you want to run into if you have an actual bona fide medical emergency is a pathologist. Shortness of breath? Get a thoracic surgeon to do a VATS and we'll take a gander at the lung wedge under our scope. GI bleed? Grab the gastroenterologist and well look at whatever he finds in his endoscope. But after a few years of living inside our microscopes we are helpless at clinical-decision making beyond common sense.

About a week and a half ago, construction abruptly halted. I was summoned one morning by one of the lab administrators. Apparently, word came down from high that my new office plan was unacceptable, for reasons which I can only guess at. It was aesthetically awkward, but that doesn't seem to stop hospital construction historically. I think maybe they needed that space for ED waiting - that cutting the waiting area even 1/3 was not ideal, since the new ED might not be ready for a couple of years. My half constructed office is now planned to be torn down, the waiting area will be remodeled, and I will move to the procedure room - since we have been doing our FNA's fine for a few weeks in the ED, we will permanently shift there.

I hope they plan to remodel the procedure room, but I'll likely not hear until at least after the holidays. It is a very small space lined on one wall by ancient metal drawers and cabinets with glass doors. The walls are cinder blocks painted aged ivory. There is an old leather clinical chair bolted into the floor in the middle of the room - reminiscent of a piece in a torture or death chamber. It can be manipulated electronically but only the most seasoned cytotechs understand the cryptic levers and buttons involved in making the patient "more comfortable." I'm always afraid if I touch them I'll send the patient through the apparently asbestos-laden panels in the ceiling.

That was the hot topic of conversation at our lab Christmas party tonight - with the Rex Bell Jazz trio playing in the background and the beautiful cardiologist nurse crooning in the marble foyer of my beautiful Hispanic partner - part-tiger, part-ballerina's home. I planned to wait until my new office was completed until I blogged about it but hell, its already been over a year and who knows when it will be done. I told someone tonight that in January, they could probably open the old procedure room door and find me sitting in the torture chair with my scope on my lap, signing out cases.


rlbates said...

I hope you get more space than your lap for the scope. :) Here's wishing you a great 2011!

The Mother said...

Maybe you can just telecommute from home? It's about time path got tech savvy. Diagnosis by internet is done all the time by the radiologists.

Kyla said...

I hope your new office will be well worth the wait!