The day before I was asked to give this speech, sometime mid-May, I was speaking with a first year student. At the time, I was two weeks shy of completing my third year of medical school — the year of school that you spend the most time in the hospital.
At 7:21 p.m., I arrive at the hospital for the first overnight shift of my medical career. It’s not a great start — the bus was late, and I didn’t sleep nearly enough this afternoon in preparation for the night ahead.
Yellow does not mean sunshine, nor lemons. / Definitely not daffodils, nor sharp, new Number 2’s. / Yellow means sick. Dirty. Dangerous.
The first thing she noticed, / Was her heart fluttering off and on, / The doctor saw her pale, / And iron pills were called upon.
Tears hold onto the ledges of her eyes. As the physician and I approach, a quivering begins. It emerges at the jaw, a flutter running across her lips, only to drop onto her shoulders and envelop her hands.
During the team huddle I was assigned to Room 403, Bed 1. “There is a lot you can learn from this patient. You should see him.” I got the one liner and was off.
“Dan the magic man,” Q replied. Q rummaged through his jacket pocket and pulled out a quarter. A childish smile brought the color back to his face as he attempted to make the coin disappear into thin air and then pull it out from behind my ear.
I slide through the door swung open by the janitor. It closes with a metallic shudder.
On the first day of my neonatology elective I met Aaron, a one-day-old infant born to a mother with a history of intravenous drug abuse. The mother was reportedly attending a methadone clinic during her pregnancy to address her opioid addiction, but her urine drug screen was positive for fentanyl.
A pair of Navy socks on pale, scrawny legs — that’s what I remember about him. 0300 hours in the ED and the umpteenth “What brings you in tonight, sir?” and suddenly all the patients start to meld together.
One of the visions of in-Training has been to raise awareness of the significant issues affecting medical students across the United States and internationally. Yet, when we focus solely on our needs, we often fail to see and appreciate the patient perspective.
On inpatient pediatrics, I helped care for a young boy admitted following urological complications after surgery. I first heard about him during morning sign-out: he was in severe pain, and his Foley catheter kept getting clogged and needed to be flushed repeatedly.