So You Want to be a Plague Doctor

by Bex Pendrak

Hey you! Yes, you. You’re new here, right? Great. I’m assuming you saw our recruitment notice on the cathedral doors. So you want to be a plague doctor, kid? Well, let’s get one thing straight. This isn’t something you can just do for fun, earn some extra cash, and lead a normal life outside. It’s dangerous and all consuming. You can’t half-ass your job because then you’re dead. A lot of the less experienced or cautious plague doctors now need doctors themselves, if you catch my drift. Are you sure you still want to do this? It’s perfectly fine if you leave now, I won’t judge.

You’re still here? Good. I’ll walk you through the basics. As you’ve probably heard in the town square, the plague spreads through bad air. If you’ve got the plague, the rancid smell of death you emit is how you infect others. Now, as a plague doctor, you’ll be spending a lot of time in contact with this miasma. That’s why it’s critical to choose the right protective gear, starting with the right aroma to chase away the plague air. Personally, I prefer dried flowers, because it makes me feel like I’m wandering through an open field throughout my day. Carnations are by far my favorite. You can use pretty much anything that has a strong scent, though. Lavender, peppermint, camphor, or other strong-smelling spices are pretty popular amongst other doctors. If you’re on a budget though, and by the looks of it you are, a vinegar-soaked rag or sponge works just as well.

Now you’re going to need a proper mask. Try to get one with the thickest leather you can find. It both keeps the bad air out and keeps your chosen anti-plague aroma in. Sometimes cheaper masks with thinner leather will fit your face poorly and chafe like a bitch. In that case, get the mask that fits your face best. What’s that? What kind of beak should your mask have? Well, that’s a personal preference. However, I will say that doctors with longer beaks always seem to be overcompensating for something,
and that doctors with too short of a beak are definitely inexperienced. Ideally, you want your mask beak to be at least half a foot long to get the right ratio of fresh air to your strong-smelling scent. You’ve also got several different styles of beaks to choose from. The most common one is modeled off crows’ beaks, and it’s a good starter choice. However, some maskmakers
are starting to produce masks with beaks based off of different birds. I’d suggest choosing whatever bird style you think makes your outfit most flattering. I personally like wren-styled or pheasant-styled beaks because of their more slender appearance, although they do tend to cost a bit more. If you don’t like your first mask you can always get a different one later, as you make more money.

You’ll also need a long overcoat to tuck your mask into. You want to limit your exposure to the miasma as much as possible. There’s a couple good overcoat shops around here. Hmm, anything else I’m missing? Oh, that’s right, you’ll need a standard-issue flat-brimmed hat. That’s what tells your patients that you’ve been officially certified as a plague doctor. You don’t actually know how to treat patients? Don’t worry about that, we’ll give you a handbook on what we’ve found works the best. And if the patients are too sick, don’t be afraid to use a wooden cane to interact with their body. No, there’s no number of patients you have to cure to remain certified. As long as you don’t catch the plague, we’ll maintain your status as an official plague doctor. How do you get certified? Well, you’re still standing here listening to me, aren’t you? That’s good enough for us. You can go get registered and get your official plague doctor certification papers at that table over there.

Well, that’s all the guidance I can give you. Good luck, little one. You’ll need it.

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