I could feel my right lower leg starting to bend. And bend. And bend for an eternity before I finally hit the turf. Then, my only view through the bars of my helmet were the Friday night lights against the Friday night sky.
As a medical student, I have found that one of the biggest challenges during my journey through the many clinical experiences is the ability to truly immerse myself in my patients’ stories and attempt to place myself in their shoes when thoughts of other clinical and academic responsibilities were constantly hovering over my head.
My third year had not been going as planned, and most days I was questioning my purpose in life, which I was once so sure of.
When I reflect on ways to implement holistic care for the patients I work with, I think of the impact of my mother as a primary caregiver for my abuela’s (grandmother’s) medical care, despite not having a medical background herself.
My eyes locked on the upside-down words scribbled on the paper that was torn from my preceptor’s notebook a few moments prior. Dear God, my patient wrote, I am grateful for this life.
he sits on the edge of the bed, forlorn – / eyes squeezed shut, back hunched over. / the veins snaking up his arms seem / translucent as he clenches the bed rail / in a death grip.
As a future physician, this experience reminded me to remain empathetic, compassionate and unbiased in all aspects of patient care. By doing so, I can not only improve trust and connection with my patients but also ensure that my clinical judgment remains clear.
Most of all though, I tried to calm my racing mind and remind myself to just learn. And with that, I wondered, “What is the most important thing I can do today?”
Upon reflection, my actions and feelings in caring for this patient reveal how truly afraid I was to be wrong; not necessarily about the diagnosis, but rather about whether the patient would be okay. Maybe coming in daily and opening her chart for good news was just me hoping that my initial impression was still right instead of coming to terms with the fact I was very wrong.
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.
She asks me if I can speak Spanish, to which I regrettably deny, stating I can understand it well, but my ability to communicate in my mother tongue is lacking. Her eyes catch my sight, this time not projecting annoyance, but now disappointment, with her head shaking and her uttering, “That is an absolute shame. You should know how to speak Spanish. You are Hispanic and do not know Spanish? What a shame.”
Pink playdough littered the exam table, sink, counter and floor. In a flash, a thin child, all elbows and knees, jumped athletically from the sink counter to the exam table and then to the floor, stomping over my feet in the process.