Zoology or Zoo-Radiology?

June 30, 2014

The radiology field can be a hectic one, an environment we affectionately refer to as a “zoo.”

OK, so my undergraduate pre-med major might not have been the strongest choice, especially if I had not been accepted into medical school. My advisor said he thought I was strong enough to get in, so it didn’t really matter what my major was. He said it could be psychology or history or even music. Since I was a bit more driven toward science, but didn’t particularly like chemistry, I chose zoology which I thought was reasonably close to the human body. After all, I wanted to be a doctor and we dissected a pig in high school physiology, right? At least that was my 18-year-old thought process.

It seemed to work well enough. Got through med school OK. Onto diagnostic radiology residency. Emerged intact. Then the boards. Psychologically traumatic - maybe I should have chosen psych. After months of work and study, I passed unscathed. Then I began my career, finally doing (and enjoying) what I’d dreamed of, what I trained for and what made it worthwhile going to work everyday.

Now fast forward through the decades heralding the introduction, and now ubiquitous utilization, of MRI. The maturation and expansion of IR. DRGs thrust upon us. Federal mandates. Reduction in legislation. Denials. Obama’s ACA. Ah yes, the professional challenges we face on a daily basis certainly makes life interesting. Makes any radiologist worth their salt want to come to work everyday and make a difference. These challenges have kept me (and thousands of others) going all these years. It’s also what makes so many young, eager and intelligent minds seek out radiology, clearly the premier, most satisfying and most cerebral specialty in all of medicine.

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So now back to daily duties. I’m reading on-call, over-night studies from the ER. We are immersed in an unprecedented oil boom in the Bakken Shale. It’s like nothing any of us have ever seen or could even conceptualize. Just like the ‘49 gold rush in California or the ‘98 Klondike in Alaska. The only thing is, these (oil) miners don’t ride horses or mules. Yes, liquor still flows freely. Yes, things can get out of control. Yes, there may not be enough law enforcement at every corner to keep order everywhere all the time. But these folks  drive huge fully loaded pick-up trucks or 18-wheelers hauling oil, water, dirt or machinery.

The next exam on my work list is a femur and lower leg X-ray. How hard can that be? A piece of cake compared to an abdomen/pelvis CT for nonspecific pain, right? I check the history. Then I double check the history. Reason for exam reads… “Run over by own vehicle.” That doesn’t make sense to me so I call the ER to inquire. Since the images are time-stamped at 0300 and I’m reviewing the study at 0855, it’s been less than 6 hours and yet everyone in the ER knows the story, even though they weren’t on duty when it occurred.

An “oily” as the common vernacular characterizes a new age oil-field worker had experienced a few too many encounters with ETOH. He managed to drive, though not control, his vehicle through some of the streets of our boom-town. Inexplicably, the door of his vehicle opened while moving and he fell out of the vehicle. Incredibly, he managed to actually fall “under” the vehicle which then ran over him. Not to be outdone, he then somehow managed to overtake the vehicle and get back into the driver’s seat, regain “control” and continue driving down the road. There was enough of a neighborhood ruckus that law enforcement soon arrived and eventually apprehended the driver, destined for the ER. Lest anyone consider this fiction, the story made the news.

From time to time, when our workplace gets chaotic, many of us have said we work in a “zoo.” I voiced that same euphemism as I laughed about his case with my colleagues. Then I wondered…

Was it anything like what I expected when I studied zoology, or was it more like zoo-radiology?