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On the Bus

NewannaAnna Burkhead -- For several reasons, not the least of which being ridiculous gas prices and Chapel Hill’s amazing public transit system, I take the bus to the hospital every morning. It is clean, timely, and free. It runs early enough that if I get a head-start skeletonizing my notes in the morning, I can still get to the hospital early enough to pre-round in time for 7 am rounds.

The population of riders on the early morning bus to the hospital is a particularly strong reminder of the variety and diversity of healthcare workers. At 5 am, pretty much the only people riding public transit are headed to the university and to the hospital. I use the 15 minute ride to sit quietly and mentally prepare for the day. I also think about what the other riders are about to get into as their day at the hospital begins.

There are many nurses, nursing assistants, and nursing students who ride the early bus. I think of their upcoming hours closely monitoring patients, administering medications, and generally taking care of patients' each and every need.

There are a few residents who board the bus with me. I think of them rounding, frantically entering orders and writing notes, possibly catching a bite to eat at some point, going to the OR, going to the call room, going to clinic, going to the code, going to grand rounds, going crazy?

Cafeteria workers dressed in their white buttoned shirts and black pants take the early bus. I think of them in the hot cafeteria kitchen, dealing with stressed and hungry hospital patrons all day.

There is the occasional environmental services worker riding public transit at the dawn hour. I think of them working long hours trying to make the hospital a clean and safe place for patients, visitors, and employees.

Too often in the hospital we are surrounded by our own. Yes, I’m surrounded by nurses, assistants, technicians, cleaning crews, and food service workers all day, but my primary interactions are with other medical students, residents, and attendings. I am grateful for these early morning moments on the bus when I have a moment to reflect on and be thankful for all the work that goes on behind the scenes and all around us. Each of these dawn bus riders is vital to the daily operations of hospital life, and I love that moment of shared purpose as we travel to do our very different jobs in the very same place.

October 24, 2008 in Anna Burkhead | Permalink


wow, this one really touched me

Posted by: | Oct 24, 2008 11:28:55 AM

Thanks for a reality check. A very touching post, and one that helps ground us all (hopefully).

Posted by: JRK | Oct 28, 2008 12:54:08 PM

Say what you want, the most important people in the hospital are the people who serve the food and clean the place up. I make friends with house staff day one. They know where everything is and they feed me. Plus, they are usually more interesting to talk with than the majority of my classmates.

Posted by: NJMSIV | Oct 28, 2008 1:15:30 PM

Yes, those are all important people, any of them can "save your a$$" in a moment's notice. Hope you can remember this expirience once you become a "Magnificant Diety".

Posted by: Jake | Oct 28, 2008 4:44:04 PM

Get to know the janitorial/housekeeping/maintenance staff. Those guys are AWESOME when you are trying to find your way around a hospital your first weeks of a new rotation. Plus, they're pretty cool people too and the maintenance guys have the funniest stories to lighten my day when I'm stressed out. Great post, Anna.


Posted by: Brian | Oct 28, 2008 5:54:46 PM

And they don't have the massive ego or God complexes of many of the medical staff. It can be quite refreshing.

Posted by: Blub lub | Oct 29, 2008 8:32:25 AM

really touching..well what more can i say,this is a carefully thought out post,thanx.

Posted by: eric | Oct 29, 2008 8:45:58 AM

You hit the nail on the head with this submission. Riding the train or bus around Chicago always provided the opportunity to reflect and relax. Contrastingly in LA, driving the car challenges me to find alternative means of "at peace" time. Go Metro!

Posted by: Doug | Oct 29, 2008 8:47:34 AM

u made me learn the things which i was missing all these days .........thanks a lot ..... it is touching.....god bless uuuuuuuu

Posted by: polu | Oct 29, 2008 1:16:17 PM

i take the car, im happy to have the car as it saves me alot of time....but i agree, i remember my bus days!

Posted by: | Oct 29, 2008 1:18:15 PM


Posted by: SB | Oct 29, 2008 2:09:46 PM

Great Post Anna! Simple and sweet! We should always remember the people around us - who help us do our job indirectly every single day!
We are a community, and in a community we all need each other to survive and do our job!

Posted by: Carolyn | Oct 29, 2008 2:57:06 PM

..I luv it...thanx...i`m from Fiji and well yeah we go by bus alot...this really was quite touching but true aye :-)

Posted by: sani | Oct 29, 2008 3:35:52 PM

a good reality check for those upcoming docs!!!nice post

Posted by: emire | Oct 29, 2008 3:53:26 PM

Yup, I too take the bus...
My reasons.. Going green..
why burn the energy when there is already a transport.
Many a times when i am too free, I plant to walk, which is like 20 mins away.

Posted by: DrZhivago | Oct 29, 2008 6:11:50 PM

yep....dats true.....its really amazing ain't it?
i also take the bus to med school.....

Posted by: Max | Oct 29, 2008 6:27:34 PM

Dangerous ground. When you stretched yourself to notice the janitors and cooks, I was worried for a second you were going to notice the bus driver. Thank God you dodged that one.

Posted by: BUSta | Oct 29, 2008 11:47:30 PM

this post really teaches us to stay grounded & remember the contributions of these people, who perhapes perform some of the most important tasks in the hospital.

Posted by: chinu rao | Oct 30, 2008 1:09:11 AM

Anna, this post was very insightful and beautifully written. I hope we all remember that in healthcare, every single successful outcome depends on multiple people all doing significant jobs--some visible and some invisible. Thanks for your blog--it's my favorite.

Posted by: Kansas | Oct 30, 2008 4:36:54 AM

agree totally with busta. are you one of those people who aren't racist/homophobic/what-have-you because you have black and gay friends?

let's ditch the self-congragulatory attitude for noticing the "little people" for twenty minutes everyday. i would have rather heard about you actually TALKING to these people you seem to admire so much....does no one remember the frends epidsode where ross and joey work together but can't eat together?

break out of your comfort zone, man.

Posted by: Madinat | Oct 30, 2008 5:32:57 AM

that is a good one. it encourages and promotes hard work

Posted by: beatrice | Oct 30, 2008 5:58:29 AM

Simply beautiful. I am having my practical training at the hospital right now. And yes, I am taking the bus too. It would be wonderful if everyone could at least think like Anna.

Posted by: james | Oct 30, 2008 6:37:47 AM

being a early bird,you can do everything earlier than others.

Posted by: susu | Oct 30, 2008 7:52:01 AM

Thats a great story. Riding the bus is like having a moment of comfort just as i drink my morning coffee. i am only a med student but i look forward to comforting days like these.

Posted by: reneemd | Oct 30, 2008 8:12:59 AM

observation,understanding, social awarness, simple respect...your going to be a great md.....

Posted by: mike ibarra | Oct 30, 2008 9:09:57 AM

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