shutterstock_250745014 Two years ago, during my second year of medical school, my classmates and I sat in cramped auditorium chairs as our instructor presented us with a clinical scenario. We were learning about arrhythmias, and our instructor flipped through slides of different ECG patterns, asking how we would respond to each. After several less concerning ones, the slide flashed ventricular fibrillation: an irregular ...

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In just under two months, I will be making two big transitions as I begin life as a resident. The first and obvious change is from student to doctor. The second doesn’t get the same spotlight, but might be just as important: from student to teacher. Residents play a vital role in medical student teaching. With medical training like an apprenticeship, it is the residents with whom third-year medical students often ...

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The patient was hacking sputum into a tissue when the resident and I entered his room. “How long have you had that cough?” “Oh this? As long as I can remember.” “But it’s been worse lately?” “Yeah.” “Worse how?” “More stuff coming out each time. See?” He opens the tissue. “How much sputum is there?” “Sputum?” “The stuff you cough up.” “I don’t look that close.” “More than two spoonfuls?” “Oh yes. Definitely.” “And the color?” “White-ish.” “Ever see any streaks of blood?” “Never.” “And how long have ...

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I was glad she never asked if I had done this before. My first nasogastric tube was placed on an elderly woman with chronic liver disease. As her illness worsened, it gradually turned her skin yellow, her abdomen swollen, and her mind foggy. One day, we realized that she was at too high a choking risk to swallow her medications herself. She would need a plastic tube to do it for ...

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The life cycle of a medical advance usually goes something like this: from discovery at the research bench and replication of findings to translational research and clinical trials, to implementation. The bottleneck can be at any one of these stages, and often it is in the discovery one; we just haven’t yet found the thing that works. But other times, we have -- the intervention works, we have shown and confirmed ...

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He was known to the hospital as someone who would try to manipulate his caregivers. And I fell for it anyway. Frequently admitted for pain crises associated with a chronic illness, he spent most of his hospital course avoiding eye contact with the team. So, too, were avoided answers that involved more than a few words. Providing care for him was business-like; we knew better than to expect pleasantries. The day of ...

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“So, is this the sickest list you’ve ever had?” the resident asked me at 2 AM, after I finally finished checking off all my boxes for the night. I nodded. I agreed. I was also shaking. I had been covering nine patients that night. Almost none were stable. In the span of one shift, we called three rapid responses. One person went into cardiogenic shock right in front of me was transferred to ...

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The page comes from the psychiatry intern on call. “There’s a situation with patient RB on the unit. Please advise.” We gather in the hall outside the patient’s room. There are already three -- no, four -- security guards standing several feet away with their arms folded. Backup. Ready. Ready for what? We whisper in hushed tones as the intern explains what happened. He was “acting out.” He was running through the ...

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“Ms. M,” the resident says, “I saw in your chart that the last time you had surgery you had a pulmonary embolism.” She nods with recognition: “I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was really scary.” Then: “I sure don’t want that again.” The resident lifts up the covers and sees that the patient’s calves don compression boots. “Make sure you keep the boots on,” he says, pointing. What do boots ...

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Had I met her anywhere but the hospital, I would have gone to her side. I would have asked her what was wrong. I would have offered to help. She was 99-years-old and about to undergo surgery. Pre-operative holding is generally a busy place. Patients lie in gurneys, spending some last moments with loved ones and fielding questions from various players of the surgical team as they come to the bedside. No, ...

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