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Teaching and Learning Moments: In Midair

Chretien, Katherine Chang MD

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31824d2874
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Dr. Chretien is associate professor of medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine, and medicine clerkship director, Washington DC VA Medical Center, Washington, DC; e-mail: Katherine.

As I bounced up and down on the moon bounce with my intern and medical student, I must admit that I felt a twinge of awkwardness. Was it okay to invite them over to my house after my daughter’s fourth birthday extravaganza, complete with moon bounce?

I looked over at my medical student whose hair was flying around as she skyrocketed about and thought that she didn’t seem too self-conscious about cobouncing with her attending. What would I have thought in her place? I’d have probably thought that this was Twilight Zone material but still very cool—like somehow winding up in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. My intern looked completely at ease as he flirted with the moon bounce ceiling with every jump. His wife, having demurely passed on the offer to jump, was gazing in on us through the netting.

My team was postcall, and honestly, I did not imagine that they would show up. I was faintly disappointed, thinking of the lost chances to capitalize on our moon bounce rental, when the doorbell rang, and they appeared in uncharacteristic jeans and T-shirts.

Was it too late to bounce?

Of course not! All the kids had left, but we had the rental for at least another hour.

After we had rid ourselves of our latent bouncing energy, we retired to the deck and sat in the early evening sun while I forced them to indulge in leftover birthday cake. A gentle spring breeze blew as we talked nonshop. It was delightful, yet surreal. By having them over, had I irreversibly changed our dynamic, like one of those unidirectional chemistry equations? Monday was a regular workday with rounds, teaching, and patient care. But, we’d always have our moon bounce memories. After all, they had seen me in midair.

I thought about all those times during medical school and residency when I had a glimpse into my attendings’ lives outside of the hospital. Some of them took the team to dinner at the end of the month or invited us into their homes. It was always refreshing to break down the walls of formality, a thrill to see some of them donning jeans instead of white coats, a sigh of relief to see them enjoy a glass of wine. It was comforting to see their humanness. They were real people too.

So, I decided it was okay. We could separate personal and professional. We could bond as a team outside of the hospital. And we would always remember the joy of bouncing and unwinding together on a beautiful postcall spring day.

Katherine Chang Chretien, MD

© 2012 Association of American Medical Colleges