The Difference Between White Clouds & Black Clouds

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Have you ever been labeled a white cloud or a black cloud by your friends and colleagues, and wondered what that meant?

black and white cloudsA white cloud has an easy, painless, perhaps even fun shift or call.  “Ahhh, what a good night!” a white cloud might say while stretching, smiling ear-to-ear, and appearing quite refreshed.  A white cloud survives unscathed.  A black cloud encounters hell and meets The Four Horsemen themselves.  Sirens blaring.  Nonstop pages.  Chaos and dismay.  A black cloud’s once-clean and neatly-pressed scrubs are tattered, bloodied, and shredded.  Bags under the eyes.  Arms sore from perpetual chest compressions.  At the end of the shift, a black cloud merely shakes his or her head in disbelief, yearns for a hug, and desperately wants to go home.  A white cloud always leaves work on a sunny day and can’t wait to go to the gym, go for a run.


A white cloud gets no new patients.  Or if they get one, that patient is always a pleasant, straightforward, but interesting case.  A white cloud gets a full night of undisturbed sleep on an unusually comfortable bed with freshly-washed linens.  A black cloud sees anywhere from 30 to 30,000 patients, all of whom are best labeled as “train wrecks,” and they all happen to arrive at the same time, sometimes life-flighted and usually intubatedThey are all poor historians.

A black cloud gets no more than eight minutes of sleep and it often takes place in an improvised spot: the empty bed of a recently deceased patient, the top of a conference room table, or on three swivel chairs of roughly the same height.  If a black cloud happens to find a free call room bed, he or she will catch scabies.  A black cloud’s few moments of rest are always interrupted by a patient’s acute change in medical condition.

A white cloud never deals with a crashing patient.  But not a black cloud.  A black cloud encounters at least three codes and is always the first one to arrive.  Always.  Even when a black cloud moves as slowly as possible and takes the longest path.

A white cloud pees clear urine since he or she can stay adequately hydrated.  A black cloud hydrates only with prn caffeine, and suffers from either lack of urine output or formation of kidney stones.  A white cloud eats a delicious and nutritious breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  If lucky, a black cloud eats a graham cracker out of a hospital drawer.

A white cloud is caught up on paperwork.  A black cloud is forever behind.

A white cloud makes new friends on call, and finds time to catch up on phone calls, emails, and Netflix shows; no drama.  A black cloud unearths new mortal enemies and archnemeses; it’s all about the drama – drama, drama, drama.  A black cloud loses contact with all friends and loved ones.  A black cloud’s phone always dies in the middle of the night.  A black cloud is lonely; everyone avoids black clouds.

If a white cloud were to stumble upon a box full of kittens, there would be nothing but fun, love, and cuteness.  If a black cloud stumbled upon that same box of kittens, there would be both cat-scratch fever and toxoplasmosis.

If a white cloud cries, it is tears of joy.  A black cloud always cries, needs a beer, and often benefits from psychotherapy.

If someone calls you a white cloud, you respond by saying, “Shhh, don’t jinx me!”  But you’ll never be jinxed; that is the nature of being a white cloud.  However, if someone calls you a black cloud, you’re a black cloud for eternity.  Trouble will always find you.  The sickest of the sick will always find you.  And even if you’re lucky enough to have a few white-cloud nights, don’t be fooled: you will forever be a black cloud.

Now, do you know the difference between…
a medical student and a deer in headlights?
a medicine service and a garbage dump?
arthropods & orthopods?
medical students & residents?
RICE & rice?

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