My muse for “Murder Under the Microscope”

The basis for my first book, Murder Under the Microscope, was a female locum tenens who was hired, back in the eighties, to help with weekend call. Everyone on the medical staff thought she was wonderful. My techs couldn’t stand her, and I heard about it on a daily basis. Her method of drawing blood consisted of starting an IV and letting the blood drip into the tube. Her method of collecting a culture for gonorrhea was to smash the tip of the penis into the chocolate agar plate. When my techs tried to explain why she shouldn’t do it that way, she would tell them when they had gone to medical school, then they could tell her what to do and not before.

Eventually she started working during the week too, and that’s when I tried to talk to her about these things, but she attacked me. She gave me an earful about how incompetent she thought the lab was, and why. Nothing I said made any difference. Then she wrote a letter to Administration and the medical staff, all about how bad our lab was compared to labs at all the other hospitals she’d worked in, and how incompetent the pathologist was. When I found my copy on my desk in the morning, I went straight to the administrator, only to find that several of the doctors had beaten me to it. They assured me that the lab was okay, and so was I, but they were unsympathetic when I complained about how she was affecting the morale in my lab.

Nobody killed her. She was let go after three weeks, because that was when the patients she’d seen came back for their follow-up appointments and the other doctors found out about all the mistakes she had made, and what their patients thought of her. I also found out that she’d been as nasty to Radiology as she had to the lab, and that one of the surgeons had received a letter from her too.

When Murder Under the Microscope was published in 2011, that surgeon came charging into Histology where I was grossing surgicals, waving my book and laughing his head off, and said, “I remember that lady!”