Thursday, June 26, 2008

First Patient

Took her history yesterday.

First few minutes into the interview, we could sense that she was a bit worn out so my interview partner and I tried to keep our voice as soothing as possible.  She gradually warmed up, sometimes spending minutes talking about her kids, her favorite food, her diet strategies, her work, her financial woes, her health pre-op, and her post-op pain.  My partner and I sometimes could not follow the prescribed checklist of things to ask, because we couldn't well just jump from one question to another like a quiz show master bombarding the hapless patient with questions she might have been already asked about ten times over and we spent extra time listening to the patient elaborate on her answers that sometimes veered away from anything related to her case.  Thank God my partner could steer the interview in the proper direction, because had it been solely up to myself (and had I gotten a chance to skip my next class), I would have spent so much time just hanging around the patient, listening to and chatting with her.  I am such a hopeless case when it comes to being too available for people who want to talk.

During the full course of the interview, I observed two clerks (i.e. fourth year students) check on our patient.  One was assigned to take the patient's vital stats, and the other was the clerk who must have scrubbed in on her surgery.  The first clerk calmly went about her duties and apologized for our sake, saying that all med students (and their unfortunate patients) had to go through the tedious task of establishing the medical history.  The second clerk's visit brightened up the patient's mood considerably, and the patient kept telling us proudly that the clerk was forever etched in her mind and heart; apparently, the clerk was the last person our patient saw before she went under anesthesia, and the first person our patient saw upon waking up from surgery.  The clerk was like our patient's anesthesiologist, watching over the patient throughout the surgery.  

Our patient couldn't resist telling us that she was so grateful for the care given her in the hospital by the clerks and doctors.  What stuck to me was that she fervently wished for us, second year students, to grow into the same mold of compassionate and caring healers who had taken care of her; she would squeeze my hand or look directly into our eyes to emphasize her point.  Towards the end of the interview, she repeated her sentiments so my partner and I reassured her that we would be doing good on our promise to become caring doctors.  We wished her well, checked if there was anyone who would take care of her post-op after being discharged, and thanked her for enduring our hour-long interview.  She thanked us immensely-ironic because I think we should have been the ones thanking her profusely for helping us learn to become very good physicians in the future.

Maybe it's because she's my first patient that I regretted not being able to visit her today before she got discharged and bring her favorite bread.  I hope our patient recovers well.

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