Things I Do Not Know

Yesterday was my first day in the hospital – we shadow healthcare providers and learn how to talk to patients, which is potentially way better than studying.  Granted, I like to think I already know how to talk to patients (they’re just people, right?  How hard can it be?) but all of us think that and the fact that we have to have a course on this means a large percentage of us are dead wrong.

One thing I’ve discovered is that, while laypeople are willing to give you a lot of credit even for having the short white coat (letting you stay in their room instead of immediately kicking you out, not batting an eye as you wander around employee-only areas of the hospital, etc – and yes, I still consider that to be “a lot of credit”), that same short white coat definitely magnifies all of your shortcomings.

Things I Do Not Know

– How to listen to a heart. One patient had her mother in the room with her, and she smiled and nodded when I was introduced as a medical student.  The doctor told me I should listen to the patient’s heart, so I asked permission from the patient,  approached her, and then stopped and had to ask the doctor where to place the scope.

You should’ve seen the mother’s eyes at that moment, as all the trust drained right out of them.  It was a special experience.

– How to listen to a lung. I am, however, potentially experienced in listening to a scapula.

– Where to buy dress shoes appropriate for 9 hours of walking. I see a lot of female doctors wearing shiny, pointy flats.  Maybe the key is that you’re supposed to pay more than $30 for your shiny, pointy power flats, but I’ve never had a pair that didn’t dig into all sides of my foot like knives.

So I wore really comfortable heels instead.  (Yes, go on, laugh – they were only 1.5″ high, but it was still a mistake).  I was the only person clicking my way down every hallway (why did I think I had seen female doctors wearing heels before?  I blame Gray’s Anatomy.) and the doctor definitely lightly mentioned that perhaps different shoes would be a good idea (she was nice enough to not then add, “you idiot.”)  And again, flats are out.

Apparently the answer to my shoe conundrum is “wear sneakers or crocs with your slacks”, which simultaneously horrifies and intrigues me.  My reaction to that is like a college student being told that it’s okay to wear pajamas to class – suspicious, distrusting, and yet oddly excited to break what was once considered a firm rule.

To be honest,  if I start wearing sneakers with nice dress pants and no one bats an eye, I will probably never wear nice shoes again.

– When to introduce myself.  I don’t want to interrupt the doctor when entering a patient’s room, but if the doctor starts talking to the patient and the family is standing around looking at me with a raised eyebrow wondering who the hell this person is, it seems only polite to do more than just smile back, hoping the doctor introduces me quickly.

I may have to talk with the doctor about this one.  While one solution may be allowing me to introduce myself as I walk in, I’m thinking the better option would be a big button I could pin onto my coat that says, “”Hi!  I’m a med student!  I don’t know anything yet!”, or, better yet, “Janitorial Aid”.

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