Doctor Practical Jokes

Main Piece:

Interviewer: Did you have any jokes played on you while you were first being trained as a doctor?

Informant: Yeah, there was one that really stuck with me.  But when I was a resident and was on call, some of the more seasoned nurses and older doctors would page the interns with different codes.  Some are very serious like code blue, which is basically like a call for help for a more serious patient who may be dying.  But then there are other codes that are less serious, but interns have to respond to every call, so every page to them is important.

Interviewer: So what was the worst page you got?

Informant:  Well as a practical joke I was paged a “code brown”.  And of course, being an intern I rushed to the patient thinking that someone was dying or something really serious was going on.  But in reality a “code brown” was another way of saying a patient had pooped or needed their bed pans cleaned out.  So all the more seasoned doctors and nurses knew to avoid the code but paged interns with it as a joke.  So if you ever become a doctor, know your codes! And if you don’t know, ask before unless you want to have to clean up some unwanted waste.

Interviewer: Wow that’s actually really funny.  Were you mad about it when you found out?

Informant: I was annoyed when I found out, especially since I took it really seriously.  But after it happened and now looking back on it, I think it’s really funny and that’s why I wanted to share it. 


Background: The informant is now a full time practicing physician.  She knew about this piece of folklore because she experienced it in person and then passed it down to me.  To her it reflects one of the many hurdles she had to go through while being an intern and then a resident.  The practical joke was considered a rite of passage to her and now that she can pass it along, it’s even more meaningful.

Context: This interview took place over the phone while talking to my mom who referred me to a coworker who had told her this joke while they reminisced about internship.  Then I talked to the informant and she was able to share with me directly the story she had told my mother.

Analysis: This piece was really interesting to me because I have heard a lot about serious folklore for doctors and the things they go through but this one was pretty funny.  Even though this community is really rigorous and the process of becoming a doctor if often really hard, it shows that there is still jokes and folklore that is really meant to lighten the mood and poke fun at each other.