I saw a patient the other day for follow up after they were discharged from the hospital. I had a short note on my encounter sheet to go back and read the ER encounter summary. The patient had already struck me as familiar when I had introduced myself; I was quickly reminded when I loaded the scanned summary only to find my writing scribbled on the page.
My findings. My descriptions. My words.
Helped along and countersigned by the attending physician of that day, it was now scanned into the hospital files, a legal document of an encounter for treatment and management in the face of acute symptoms.
It is a weird and funny thought to see my signature on a hospital form, mainly because it is the first of such instances. I am sure that over time, this surreal feeling of déjà vu and responsibility will fade into being just another part of the job.
I went to the wards to follow a doctor for a few hours. Who, I did not know; no name had been provided to me on my schedule. I would have to ask the nurses for whoever was available.
Checking in at the desk early, the nurse pointed me to the head nurse, who quickly directed me to Dr. A who was sitting at his desk writing a note. He happily took me on but had to leave quickly to see a patient as I got ready for the shift to begin. As I sat waiting, I was spotted by Dr. B who, realizing why I was there, said that I would actually be following Dr. C, who had yet to arrive.
For the next few minutes, I found myself moving from one desk to the next as the nurses and doctors tried to figure out who I would be following: “Go there.” “Come back.” “You’re with me.” “Follow her.” “I’m free.”
In the end though, we figured out how I was going to work in the ward and with whom. And me? I just went with the flow. Hungry for an experience, I was happy to go with anyone.
“Here is your student, Dr. C.”
I did not work initially in college, but eventually I started working in a hospital research lab as a research assistant. I held a position at the lab for two years. I learned a lot about conducting experiments and gathering data but I would not say that I gained much in terms of clinical experience, which is what I think you are referring to.
Before getting into medical school, my main experience with the hospital was participating as a volunteer and eventually a shift leader for the hospital’s volunteering program. These sorts of opportunities exist in almost every hospital but may require a bit of digging on your part.
Good luck and take care. :)
It would be my first case conference. The doctor I was working with suggested I go take a look. I had no idea what to expect. I arrived too early. It was ten to four and the conference room was quiet. Only a technologist and a doctor sat in a corner, huddled by the computer as they busied away with preparing files and scans. They looked up at me briefly and seeing my hospital tags, went back to working. Though I had already been given permission to participate, I still felt relieved.
The room lights buzzed in the background as I crept into a seat in the rear of the room. It was set up like a lecture hall. Chairs of different styles and sizes faced forward at the large projector screen. On it, files continued to populate the canvas, a miniature version of which reflected on the glasses of the doctor behind the computer.
Slowly, people began to trickle in. First one, then two, then a number of doctors shuffled in. Some looked bright and energetic as though it was the start of their shift; others looked tired and exhausted as though coming in after their shift was done; the rest fell somewhere in between. Though everyone was in different states of mind, it was clear from their conversations that they were all interested in seeing the cases that would be presented. Like the room’s arrangement had let on, this was a learning environment and the cases a learning opportunity.
“I think we’re about ready.” Said the doctor sitting behind the computer. With that, everyone got seated and the first case went up on screen. The doctor attending the patient got up to present the case to the rest of us. She gave a quick run down of the history and the developments thus far. CT scans and other test results were presented. Having learned some of the material, I was able to follow some of what she was saying but quickly got lost in the jargon and other diagnostic features. “For now I’ll just sit back and observe the process,” I thought.
Once she was done presenting the facts of the case, it was time to brainstorm. This was the purpose of these conferences: to bring to the attention of other physicians difficult or rare cases in order to discuss how to manage the patient’s care. One by one, the experts in the seats gave their recommendations, discussing what information was still missing that would be needed and what could be done now. I watched as some of the resident doctors madly scribbled notes into their notepads as the older, more experienced physicians gave their reasoning and their thought process; the presenting doctor did the same.
And so it went on for two more cases. The whole time, I just sat and watched as the doctors discussed and poured their knowledge together. It was teamwork at its best; it was learning at its best. For me to observe the process was definitely worth the visit.