The crumpled old gentleman nestled in the armchair of his hospital room, bundled in blankets from the warmer down the hall, cards from his family propped up like a miniature Stonehenge on the table beside him. I listened closely to his heart and lungs, eyed the half-full urinal hooked onto his bed frame, and drew my fingers along his shins.
“Three, two, one … lift,” the circulating nurse directs as I raise the patient’s feet from the trauma table onto the recovery bed, gushing with the giddiness of getting to use my hands in a medical setting for the first time.
During my pediatric rotation, a little girl was brought to the ED the day her family was set to leave for vacation. Her physical exam and imaging confirmed a ruptured appendix that would require surgery and almost a week of IV antibiotics, meaning our patient would miss her family’s forthcoming vacation.
When my family saw me painstakingly hand-placing individual sprinkles on the apices of buttercream rosettes at age 15, I justified this obsessive behavior by telling them, “I’m just practicing precision for the day when I get to inject into people’s faces.”
Unlike other specialties, radiology is often an elective rotation that focuses on diagnostics and image interpretation. Such tasks are mainly done by the specialty’s residents with little care for medical students to be involved with.
As I step carefully into the sterile field / past the rows of scalpels, forceps and clamps, / I sense a gentle fluttering in my chest.
One crisp Sunday morning in October, I arrive at the community free clinic to find four student volunteers — two of whom are in their third month of medical school like I am — and one attending physician. As usual, we are overbooked.
It was my third day on my home dermatology elective, and I boldly volunteered to see a patient by myself. As a third-year medical student strongly considering dermatology for my future career, I had studied for weeks for this rotation, hoping to make an impression as a confident, knowledgeable and reliable doctor-in-training. Usually, medical students shadow for two weeks before seeing patients on their own, but I was eager to be more independent. This was my chance to demonstrate everything I was working toward.
Longitudinal community service presents health trainees with clear benefits including development of communication and interpersonal skills, understanding how to teach and insight into community level issues and personal well being.
As she closed the door behind her, the palliative care geriatrician whom I (Meghan) was shadowing turned and said, “Remember, there are no difficult patients – just difficult situations.” We walked to our next patient, Mrs. C, who was suffering from congestive heart failure. All cures had been exhausted and she was tired of being at the hospital but was scared to enter hospice care. The doctor clasped hands with Mrs. C and explained that starting hospice did not mean giving up – it meant living life on her own terms in the time that was left. After these discussions, Mrs. C appeared more at ease and decided to pursue hospice care at her home.
Medical student, why don’t you intubate? / The OR is safe, it’ll go great.
While I maneuvered through my first block of medical school, I felt emboldened by how well my undergraduate studies and extracurriculars prepared me for the transition. With that being said, Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) snuck in on its Trojan horse and presented me with a very unexpected challenge.