On Call begins with a newly-minted doctor checking in for her first day of residency--wearing the long white coat of an MD and being called "Doctor" for the first time. Having studied at Yale and Dartmouth, Dr. Emily Transue arrives in Seattle to start her internship in Internal Medicine just after graduating from medical school. This series of loosely interconnected scenes from the author's medical training concludes her residency three years later.
During her first week as a student on the medical wards, Dr. Transue watched someone come into the emergency room in cardiac arrest and die. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before-it was a long way from books and labs. So she began to record her experiences as she gained confidence putting her book knowledge to work.
The stories focus on the patients Dr. Transue encountered in the hospital, ER and clinic; some are funny and others tragic. They range in scope from brief interactions in the clinic to prolonged relationships during hospitalization. There is a man newly diagnosed with lung cancer who is lyrical about his life on a sunny island far away, and a woman, just released from a breathing machine after nearly dying, who sits up and demands a cup of coffee.
Though the book has a great deal of medical content, the focus is more on the stories of the patients' lives and illnesses and the relationships that developed between the patients and the author, and the way both parties grew in the course of these experiences.
Along the way, the book describes the life of a resident physician and reflects on the way the medical system treats both its patients and doctors. On Call provides a window into the experience of patients at critical junctures in life and into the author's own experience as a new member of the medical profession.
From one resident to another...
By Malladi - April 21, 2005
Emily Transue's book touched a nerve for me. Also an internal medicine resident, I feel that she has written a book that honestly portrays the experiences that residents go through daily. Many of us don't have the time or emotional energy to digest all the profoundly moving experiences that come our way everyday on the hospital wards, and it is easy to feel alone in our experiences. The culture of medicine demands a strong front before colleagues and patients alike, and the innate need to make sense of what's occuring inside of you gets neglected.
This book sat on my dresser for months before I decided to pick it up. I didn't think that I needed to read about what I saw daily; in fact, I was avoiding it. To its credit, I couldn't put the book down. True, it was everything that I was used to, but seeing it from someone else's eyes was refreshing. I also recommend Danielle Ofri's Singular Intimacies for those interested in knowing what a young doctor's life is really about.
Today's Resident: Smart, Female and Very Tired
By Dr Cathy Goodwin - August 28, 2004
I've always been fascinated by careers and career choices, so I read about occupations from veterinary medicine to military service. Women write many of these books because, for a long time, the novelty of being female in those occupations would get the book published.
We've seen many books by women doctors, including Perri Klass, Frances Conley and Elizabeth Morgan. So what's remarkable in this book is the complete absence of any references to gender and gender issues. One older woman says she'd rather have a woman doctor and the author says sure, she would too. Big deal. Transue writes about "the neurology resident" and then uses "he" or "she" with no comment. Both male and female attendings -- senior physicians -- can be heroic or deficient.
Almost as surprising, Transue portrays herself as polite and caring. I must admit I've stayed far from doctors and hospitals throughout my life, but the few I've met were nothing like Transue. She actually apologizes for... read more
By J. L. Wieringa "Careful reader" - August 23, 2004
I read the book in one sitting -- it was that easy to become absorbed in the stories. Dr. Transue writes extremely well, both in describing the medical details (some gory, some extremely technical, but without being condescending or gross for the sake of grossness), and in capturing the emotions she felt and those she perceived in her patients.
I hate tear-jerkers -- those maudlin stories where you know the writer is just going for effect. I cried reading parts of this book, but it is in no way a tear-jerker. I felt like I was a silent observer of the real dramas of medicine, guided by a narrator I could trust: one who saw clearly and honestly, and whose reactions and thoughts make me feel more hopeful about the promises of modern medicine.
Dr. Transue's patients are lucky to have her care.