The New Kid on the Ward Round
By Dr Daniel Sokol and Dr Nneka Mokwunye
Sometimes medicine is not straightforward
In 1661, the Board of Directors at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Paris, concerned that their doctors were spending too much time with wealthy private patients, instructed the doctors to spend at least two hours a day on ward rounds.
Today, such rounds are a routine part of hospital life.
A medical team led by a senior doctor wanders from bed to bed, while a nurse or junior doctor presents each patient to the senior who then decides on their ongoing care.
Thus a junior doctor might present Mr Smith, who was admitted the day before with abdominal pain, and the senior doctor might decide to start the patient on intravenous fluids and list him for surgery.
Rounds are intimate and sometimes intimidating encounters between the patient and the clinical team.
Friends and relatives are usually asked to leave for the duration of the visit.
In leading hospitals in the US, the hallowed tradition of the ward round has been changing.
The private club, previously limited to the senior doctor and his entourage, has opened its doors to a new member: the clinical ethicist.