Still Too Early

Still too early to know if I’m here
They put up paper snowmen in the nursing station
On white walls
The familiar dull-high pitched rhythms
Open the list. It’s always here.
Labs, settings. Sats too low.
Are numbers really people-
“She’s maxing out – full code, too.”
“Bed 27.”
Behind her glass door. Sunken eyes and a
Soft smile. She’s overweight. They say
‘That’s what gets them’
Small talk, hang in there.
Heart and lungs – put strength into it.
No pain? No. We’re trying. “Thanks, doctor.”
Knowing your name isn’t enough.
I know they know I don’t know enough.

“Code Blue, Radiology. Code Blue, Radiology”
“There’s a code in CT”
I run down with the other bodies.
Freeze, it’s my patient.
Already a lot of flesh
A lot of hands
Moving up and down
She’s pouring over the metal table
“Clear” … “Analyzing rhythm”
Respectful silence for the device
“Resume CPR” I’m up.
Another round. It’s loud.
But I can’t hear anything
“You can do the death exam
While I call family.”
I look down
My badge is on the floor

Called for rounds
The leader speaks. “Ok who has bed 11?”
“I do” please God help me care.
“Tell me what we’re doing for him”
I make talk of the plan
Washed the tonality out my voice
Like a good solider – be a man
Rehearse the numbers how he wants
Numbers in the right order
Orders in the right numbers
“The numbers are rising”
And there’s no time to feel

My phone vibrates
Screen lights up. It’s him.
“How’s your day sweetie?”
My neck tenses. Do I love him?
I excuse myself to the restroom
Still too early to hear myself breathe

Call for Entries

Pulse Writing Contest

"On Being Different"

Rachael J Murphy is a second year Psychiatry resident at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She initially completed her Transitional Year at LVHN before joining the program. Rachael is an advocate for physician mental health and well-being and encourages creative expression through the arts.

About the Poem

“This is poem written from the perspective of a medical intern working in the ICU during the Covid-19 pandemic in December 2020. The poem explores themes of job performance and personal identity as a new physician, the delicate balance of dedication to patients and compassion fatigue, and managing personal relationships while under the often over-looked stress interns may be facing.”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Poems


Popular Tags
Scroll to Top