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Vocation: to be prepared to go beyond the call of duty

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 12 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1121
  1. Amit Bhattacharyya, former associate specialist, Calcutta Medical College, India
  1. awmyth{at}

    Of the many specialties through which I had rotated as a senior house officer, I had come to like paediatric surgery the most. I had joined the postgraduate general surgery residency and so was no longer on the paediatric surgery rota. However, I admired the dedicated consultant and had volunteered many of my off-duty hours to work in his wards and scrub up with him in the theatre.

    One night, on my way back from a call, I was stopped by a ward-boy with a call book. There were no pagers in our hospital in those days. Instead, doctors were called for emergencies by handwritten messages in a call book, and ward-boys were sent out to find the doctors in their usual hideouts—with many outcomes depending on how quickly the ward-boy could track down the doctor.

    That night there was an emergency in the paediatric surgical ward. The houseman was too scared to call the consultant at home. He had sent out the call book to me in desperation, …

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