Monday, July 17, 2006

On Being a Patient

Category: General

It's different going to the doctor now that I'm so much closer to being a doctor. I've often wondered how other medical students feel/act when they have to go see a doctor: any different? proud? knowledgable? less nervous? more nervous?

During first year, I believe we're still more on the level of a layperson as far as medical knowledge goes, but sometime during the second year, after a bit of pathology and pharmacology, we start to semi-understand the unnecessarily complicated vocubulary of the medical world.

I bet there are some of us who are just bursting with pride, just dying for the office staff, nurses, and doctors to be fully aware of our vast array of knowledge. "Oh my," you say, so terribly seriously, "My hemoglobin and hematocrit is low? I wonder if it's a hypochromic microblastic anemia? What is my mean corpuscular volume? You are going to do an anemia panel, aren't you? It's most likely iron-deficiency anemia, you know. It's one of the most common. I'm in medical school so I know these things. I was thinking about being a cardiothoracic surgeon. Go ahead, you can talk me like a colleague. I'm almost a doctor, anyway."

Heh heh - in a perfect world, no medical student would be so full of themselves, so anxious to show the world that they can understand and coverse with the Almighty Doctor in Sacred Medical Language. Of course we know it's not a perfect world. Another variation of show-off student would be I've-already-diagnosed-myself-so-here-are-the-tests-I-want-run student and his close cousin, I've-already-diagnosed-myself-so-here-are-the-prescriptions-I-want-go-ahead-and-call-them-in student. And what about I'm-in-medical-school-so-I-shouldn't-even-have-to-wait-in-the-waiting-room student?

Congratulate yourself on your brilliance silently, okay? Nobody else wants to hear it. Go to the doctor, sign in, sit down, shut up, and wait your turn. When you're called, walk - don't swagger - through the door, go to your little room, sit down, shut up, and wait your turn. When the doctor comes in, and begins the interview, use your knowledge and experience to help him/her instead of showing off. Try to not to babble, stick to the point, give as much information as you can, cooperate with the exam. When he/she is finished, use your knowledge again to ask good, pertinent, focused questions if you really have them - as opposed to just making up questions to provoke the doctor to say, "Wow..you know your stuff! Are you in med school or something?"

Sometimes, when we're feeling particularly competent and clever, it's tempting to strut a bit, throw around some medical lingo, and show the world that we're one of the cool kids in the medical profession. Ultimately, I try not to. One of these days, your doctor you're seeing as a patient might start pimping you worse than the most evil attending and/or professor you've worked with, and you'll end up feeling a whole lot dumber than you'd ever want to. A small degree of humility, friends and neighbors. It'll go a long way.

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