I am only three weeks in and I have already learned so much from being in the hospital and out of the classroom. Of course, learning medicine is completely different in a clinical setting. Textbook medicine is necessary, but there is SO much that you are not taught in the first two years of medical school. But that is pretty obvious. I knew that I would learn so much more medical knowledge in a clinical setting. However, what made me realize in a mere three weeks that I chose the right profession were the other things that I discovered.
10 Surprising Things You Learn in the Hospital
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Touch
In years one and two, we were graded on adding in an ’empathetic touch’ during our OSCEs. OSCEs (Objective Structured Clinical Exams) are mock scenarios where you take a history, do a physical exam, diagnose and ‘treat’ standardized (actor) patients for a grade. On our rubric, there was a checkbox for ’empathetic touch.’ This could be a touch to the shoulder, knee or hand that showed that you cared. I’m not going to lie… in the OSCE scenario it was awkward. The patient is acting, you know you are graded on this ‘touch’ so it seems in-genuine, and it is hard to find a way to squeeze it in while you are scrambling to finish everything in 15 min.
When you get out into the hospital, however, everything changes. The touch honestly feels like magic. Sitting in a room with a patient and delivering bad news breaks your heart. You know that you can’t do anything to heal your patient physically, but you want to find some way to heal them emotionally and spiritually. While a touch won’t cure heartbreak, it can do far more for a patient than you realize. Humans need the touch of another human. Holding their hand or even just sitting there close to them and being there for them touches their heart (and yours).
Listen. I mean, really listen.
Just like how a simple touch can go miles, sitting there and listening to someone provides comfort (and gives you more information about a diagnosis). In just three weeks, the number one complaint that I heard patients say about doctors is that they just don’t listen. They feel as if the doctor isn’t really hearing what they say. If you feel like your doctor isn’t hearing you, then you sure as heck aren’t going to have confidence in their ability to treat you appropriately!
Beyond listening in order to make an accurate assessment and plan, you might be the only person that that person feels comfortable enough to confide in. The patient-doctor relationship is precious and extraordinary. Don’t cheapen in by failing to do your part, which is to listen. Just expressing your emotions to a healthcare provider is therapeutic in and of itself. Other than that, the whole 80-90% (the number always seems to get higher and higher) of the diagnosis can be made from the history alone is SO true.
Watch other healthcare professionals communicate with patients.
This rotation, I am working with interns, residents, attendings, and a whole bunch of other healthcare professionals. I didn’t realize that listening to each person’s style of communication is invaluable in terms of developing your own style. Watch the nurses, the PAs and the PTs as well! In these three weeks, I have observed how people talk to patients and made conscious decisions about what I do and don’t like. Then the next time I go in to talk to a patient, I use those observations to develop my own voice. Already, I feel so much more comfortable and fitting into my future physician skin.
Pharmacists and Pharmacy Students are AMAZING
Every single day I am in awe by how much the pharmacists know and what an essential part of the medical team that they are. I never doubted that their input was crucial, but working along side of them this rotation really helped me see that first hand. They keep the doctors in check, suggest better medications, and are a huge help when it comes to making sure the medications are covered or affordable for each specific patient.
Staying Healthy is Essential
After a long day at the hospital, I am exhausted. Despite the fact that the hours are long, you are constantly thinking and learning. It really is draining. The last thing that I want to do is exercise. Actually, the last thing that I want to do is study for the shelf exam that’s looming around the corner. But the bottom line is that when I eat healthy and exercise, I really do feel better. We need to fuel our bodies right to have the energy to run around like crazy and solve critical problems.
ALSO another essential. The shoes are the big thing for me. If there is a chance to sit, the attending or resident gets the chair, not you. You will be on your feet a lot. This rotation I am in business casual, but next up I have surgery! Having a good set of scrubs is going to be awesome. Lately, I am loving the elastic waistband scrubs. I recently received an awesome pair from Smitten and I LOVE them. They are navy and have a ton of pockets. My favorite part, however, is the material. It feels super thin and comfortable, but it doesn’t look it. (It also hides sweat well ;).
Accept you’re going to feel dumb for a LONG time.
Patients will offend you, doctors will make you want to cry, other students will show you up. You are at the bottom of the totem pole and you are going to constantly feel dumb. You can take it to heart and break down or you can toughen up, accept the criticism, and improve. And take comfort in the fact that people years ahead of you still feel dumb. That’s just the profession we’ve chosen.
Take Advantage of Your Superior’s Advice
I have the pleasure of working with multiple different attendings and residents on this rotation. Everyone has a different background and a different goal. They all have a lot of experience under their belt and have given me some awesome advice for my future career.
You are in Control of Your Education
You have to be proactive. It is up to you to make the most out of these two years. There will be opportunities to leave early, stay late, attend or not attend conferences, etc. Whatever you decide won’t penalize you (grade wise), but going above and beyond will make you a better doctor. You only have these two years to explore all of the different specialties. This might be the only time you learn how to do a specific surgical procedure. Take advantage and take control of your education.
3rd Year is INFINITELY better than 1st and 2nd Year
To all my friends trudging through the horrible years of medical school.. it gets SO much better! Hang in there. For more posts on years 1-2 of medical school, click here.