Grand Rounds

Back in October, our Palliative Care team was sitting around the conference room table for a regular monthly meeting. We discussed fellowship updates, weekend coverage issues, clinic schedules and the benefits of intermittent fasting. It was a typical Tuesday.

Then it happened.

The upcoming lecture schedule. It all happened so quickly, I didn’t have a chance to steady myself. I was still sipping coffee from my turquoise fiestaware mug, an unassuming fawn with hungry wolves closing in.

“Grand Rounds.” The words rolled out of my boss’s mouth and landed with a terrifying thud on the oblong table.

(Pause game. Grand Rounds is a big lecture that is given on a weekly basis by different medical specialists and subspecialists, to the entire Internal Medicine Department. There are some people who give presentations all the time who would think this is no big deal. Then there is me. I get tachycardic and near syncopal at the thought of talking to elementary kids on career day. The idea of speaking in an auditorium to a group of doctor-y people…people who were my attendings in medical school…such an endeavor makes me want to crawl under a shroud and never come out.)

I tried not to make any quick moves. Don’t draw attention! I looked down at my meeting agenda. Then my coffee mug. Back to my agenda. Heart pounding. Don’t. Look. Up. Do NOT make eye contact. They won’t notice you.

Time slowed to a crawl, the lights dimmed. My peripheral vision blurred.

“Bartlett hasn’t given grand rounds yet.”

I didn’t say anything, pretending those words were NOT just spoken. Surely no one else noticed that I had just been offered up on a platter.

Coffee mug, agenda, coffee mug, agenda. Lubdublubdublubdub…….

I could feel the eyes of my partners turning toward me…still in slow motion. I felt the heat of the collective glare. I’d been had. I tried to come up with an excuse why I couldn’t possibly give Grand Rounds. I started with a practical argument, “I’m too short, you can’t see me over the podium.” Then moved straight into a near tantrum “I have NOTHING to talk about…I will EMBARASS our division! DON’T MAKE ME DO IT!”

Reassurance was offered that I would survive and everything would be okay. I felt the weight lift from my partners, individually spared for at least another six months, and crash directly on me. So that was it. There was no escaping. I had been….volunTOLD.

This was October. My Grand Rounds was scheduled for January. Thus began the perseveration, the self doubt, the exacerbation of my imposter syndrome. I have successfully completed four years of medical school, three years of residency, one year of fellowship and five years of legit doctoring BUT I AM NOT QUALIFIED TO SAY WORDS ABOUT STUFF IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. At some point along the way I was able to string together some coherent thoughts and eventually some power point slides evolved into a presentation.

In late December I received an email asking me if I would be willing to swap my scheduled time for a date in late February. Um…YES PLEASE. We’re putting this thing off as long as humanly possible. I let the scheduling people know that not only would I be willing to swap for February, I’d be more than happy to swap for…oh say July…or maybe 2035? I was assured, however, that February would work just fine on their end.

Despite my pleading, February eventually rolled around. And the snow and ice in Kansas City were relentless. A significant amount of snow fell the night prior to my 8am presentation. I’d never been so excited for inclement weather. At best my presentation would be cancelled and at the very least nobody would show up. Who risks life and limb on nasty winter roads to get to Grand Rounds?

So Wednesday morning, I got up at an ungodly hour and started refreshing my email every 2.5 seconds anticipating a cancellation email. It didn’t come. I was disappointed to find that the roads weren’t all that bad and I made it into work without sliding into a ditch (which for a brief moment seemed a decent alternative). I got to work and continued the every 2.5 second email refreshing. Even as people were showing up, I was still convinced that Grand Rounds would be cancelled. But people kept showing up. At first just a couple of residents (because they live at the hospital, bad weather doesn’t apply to them). Then some of my partners. Then some of the older, more legendary doctors in the Internal Medicine department. Then the chair of the department. Then my boss said some nice things about me and introduced me as I hit my email refresh ONE LAST TIME.

Then I crawled under a black cloak and hid from the world. No, legit…I totally did.

The person in front of me is the distinguished chair of our department. I’m sure at this point he was texting his admin about my employment status.

Okay, so the cloak. It was my attempt at satire to lighten the mood. And I apparently cannot say no to a dare. Peer pressure is real…even when you’re 38!

Here I am being a little more professional. My employment status has been redeemed!

I’m happy to report that I made it through my lecture and accomplished the following objectives:

  1. I successfully opened with the obligatory “conflict of interest” joke referencing my lack of conflicts (there were chuckles)
  2. I didn’t pass out
  3. I remained continent of both bowel and bladder
  4. I didn’t devolve into inappropriate humor (a la Midge Maisel)

I’m a little sketchy on the details, but I apparently said some useful stuff about Hospice and Palliative Care. Knowledge was spewed and lives were changed. I even displayed my own original visual aid…with circles and lines and stuff.

Turns out I learned a few things from this experience:

1) You can give Grand Rounds in a black cloak and not get fired.

2) I actually know some stuff about some stuff, and can say words about stuff to teach other people the stuff.

3) I’m off the hook for Grand Rounds for a LONG TIME…I’m thinking along the lines of six years or so.

4) My partners are exceptionally lovely people and helped me out A LOT with my presentation.

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