My resident and I braced ourselves for the meeting ahead. It was not going to go well. The patient had been informed that he would be involuntarily committed to a mental hospital because we believed he was a danger to himself. The patient was quite upset and had angrily demanded a meeting. Now it was time to meet with the patient as well as his family to explain what was going on. Most of the hospital staff had already gone home.
My resident asked me to jot off a quick message to the attending physician, letting him know what was up. I sent a quick text message to the doctor's pager. We hurried to the patient's room.
After a lengthy, impassioned back-and-forth, things were not going where we wanted. The family and the patient fiercely disagreed with our plan, and they were becoming irritated. I scurried down the hallway towards the page phone so I could notify our attending.
When I got to the phone, I spotted my attending sitting comfortably at a computer in the distance. He was typing up patient notes. What a relief! I went over to him. "Just who I wanted to see!" I said. I brought the attending up to speed and directed him to the patient's room. The attending took over and did a fantastic job of calming down the situation.
What was our attending physician doing in that particular hallway of the hospital, of all places? After receiving my page, he had come up to our floor without telling us. I think it was intentional that he had positioned himself out of the way, where we couldn't see him.
He had trusted us to handle the meeting on our own, but was ready to help at the drop of a hat if we needed it. It was perfect.