Judgment, humility, righteousness, virtue, praise — I will think about all of these things when I put on my PPE. The next time you are in a hospital or clinic, maybe you will too.
The hospital where I trained had a few specialized rooms designed for patients who have tuberculosis, with special ventilation systems to produce negative airflow into the room so that the patient’s germs wouldn’t spread down the hall and through the hospital, infecting other patients. I spent a total of three months on the infectious diseases specialty services during medical school and internship, and during those months I spent a lot of time seeing patients in those negative airflow rooms. Outside the room we had to dress up in a mask, gown, and gloves, and during one of those ritual dressings the attending physician on our team turned to the rest of us and asked, “Has your PPD turned positive yet?” The rest of us on the team stared at him in muted alarm, pondering the implications of what he had just said. The PPD (purified protein derivative) test is used as a screening instrument for tuberculosis, which is an infection I hope I never get. “I remember when mine went positive,” he continued. “It was during my fellowship. I had to take isoniazid for 9 months.” I placed my face mask on very carefully that day, and have ever since. Coming to understand the real purpose for something forever changes your attitude about it, as mine did that day. Continue reading