Blog | Friday, May 15, 2020

They don't tell stories about people like these


We've all heard that doctors and nurses are heroes. But what about the other people working at the hospital? Below are a couple of episodes, presented without embellishment or comment.

Scene: A hallway in Johns Hopkins Hospital
Dramatis personae: A white figure wearing a lime-green vest, like the kind a highway worker might wear, carrying a clipboard; an African-American woman pushing a custodial cart
Vest: You have to wear a mask in the hospital!
Cart: I can take a few second break.
Vest: CORONA DOESN’T TAKE A BREAK.
Cart: Just a break.
***
Scene: an elevator in the same hospital.
Me and a janitor enter. Me, white. She, black.
Her: Can I ask you a question, doc?
Me: Sure
Her: Can it really get on your skin?
Me: It sure can. But if you wash, and clean surfaces, you can really protect yourself.
Her: It's scary.
Me: It sure is. Are you getting overtime?
Her: Every other day.
Me: Every other day? That's some bullshit.
Her [laughs]: It is.
Me: And your union?
Her: They're trying to get us hazard pay.
[We keep holding the elevator doors from closing, though we are both at our destination. As if we are loath to finish.]
Her: You stay healthy and take care of yourself.
Me: You too.

Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews. He is also a poet, journalist and translator in Yiddish and English. This post originally appeared at his blog.