Liam Farrell: My rapid promotion to world expert

When I was a surgical intern in Dublin, my six months of torture and ritualised humiliation included a short rotation as a gynae intern.

As the consultant was never around - that's private medicine for you - and the reg was flaky, I became the de facto gynae expert in the hospital, and went suddenly from the lowest of the low in the pecking order (lower than the assistant social worker's assistant) to being an object of reverence and a repository of arcane knowledge.

Suddenly, I was doing consults all around the hospital; suddenly, I was The Man Who Knew.

No-one else was comfortable with incontinence, prolapses, inserting ring pessaries, etc, so my own incompetence in these areas was easy to cover up; in the country of the blind and stupid the one-eyed gynae intern is king.

But, sometimes, I had to call outside help. One of our pre-op patients developed toothache, a complex condition obviously beyond my expertise.

'Call the dental team,' I was advised by a helpful nurse.

'We have a dental team? Since when? Do a lot of people know that?' I was shocked that such a thing existed but, in the noble tradition of junior doctors since time immemorial, eager to seize the opportunity of fobbing the problem off on some other poor sap. It's recognised as sound medical practice.

I called the switchboard. 'Can you contact the dental team for me?' I asked.

'No problem,' they said reassuringly, like they'd done it hundreds of times before.

A few seconds later my bleep went off.

'You're wanted in gynae,' was the message.

'I'm already here,' I replied, facts at my fingertips, looking round at the speculum shelf just to make sure.

'Good, because the gynae intern wants you to see somebody.'

'There must be some mistake,' I said, 'I am the gynae intern, why would I be looking for myself?'

There was a brief silence, then rustling papers, suggesting a list was being checked.

'Congratulations,' they said - could I hear giggling? 'You're the dental intern as well.'

'Quite a promotion,'I said, 'I'll just ask myself for my own opinion then, shall I?'

The giggles turned to cackles. 'Just don't bite off more than you can chew, Dental Boy.'

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