doc w/ pen

a journalist becomes a doctor before your eyes

Charting new creative territory

I’ve shared some of my origami crane notecard creations in another post. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve expanded into new territory. One of my new directions even relates to science.

I have plenty of paper — rolls upon giant rolls, all stored under my bed. But I was getting bored. I needed something to spark my creativity. When I was flipping through a box of cardstock recently, I came across some calendar pages I’d collected while working in a research lab years ago. They had colorful microscopy images on them.

“Huh,” I thought. “I could use these.”

And I did. Here are the results of my science collection so far:

With these cards now complete, I’ve basically used what I have in terms of glossy magazine-type pictures. But a classmate has promised to get me more science/nature magazines from her parents, so I should be getting additional inspiration soon.

Against my better judgment, I also headed to my favorite paper website, Paper Mojo. They have an insanely huge collection of both solid and printed paper. Specifically, I wanted to peruse their collection of chiyogami (a type of Japanese printed paper) and marbled paper. As I was scrolling through the pages of paper patterns, I was reminded that for many of them, you can buy 5″ x 8″ sample pieces rather than a large sheet. I only needed small squares or circles for each card, so this was perfect — I could get many different patterns without spending too much money.

My chiyogami and marbled prints arrived Friday night. I dove into using them yesterday, with great delight.

Here are the cards I made using two of the marbled prints:

And the cards I made using four of the chiyogami prints:

I’ve still got more chiyogami and marbled patterns to play with, and the promise of magazines soon, too. Working with paper, mixing colors, matching prints and solids, is a wonderful study break. And when so much of my time at home is spent with my nose buried in a book, it feels good to hold something tangible that I’ve made with my own two hands.

Note: For each of the photo groupings, you can click on any of the pictures to open a slide show with larger images.

Advertisements

Once a copy editor, always a copy editor

Having worked as a professional copy editor, grammatical mistakes make my hair stand on end. Especially when they’re printed on signs in public places. I’ve never actually done anything about this, other than to internally cringe. Until this past week.

Below are photos I encountered on a handwritten notice advising that a drinking fountain was out of order. I immediately noticed the error in the message. I started to step away, but felt drawn to return. To fix what was wrong. I pulled a pen out of my pocket and quickly did just that. My handiwork is subtle, matching in ink color so as not to draw too much attention to itself. My goal was not to shame the writer, but simply to correct the mistake.

I’ve included before and after photos to illustrate my good grammatical deed.

Before / After:

I left the drinking fountain with a smile on my face, feeling I had done the right thing. Feeling I had done a necessary thing.

Ah, saving the world, one grammatical error at a time …

“Dr. Dating”

In a recent post, I shared one of my early online magazine columns from several years ago. Today, I’m sharing my most recent column, published this week. Most of my pieces (both for the magazine and here on this blog) explore science, medicine, and life in medical school. This piece, however, explores new territory. It’s called “Dr. Dating,” and as the title suggests, it delves into what it’s like trying to find a partner while surviving as a 35-year-old medical student.

This piece was first published in the online magazine The American. You can see the original version here.

Dr. Dating

Dating in medical school is hard. When your 3:30 a.m. alarm heralds a 15-hour workday, you have little time left for yourself, much less a partner.

Dating as an older medical student is even harder. When most of your classmates are a decade younger than you, your dating pool automatically shrinks. Dating apps make the whole thing almost impossible. When Cupid’s main criteria is pixelated faces there’s little room for meaningful romance.

I tend to post on sites that allow a more freeform profile, minus images. I want responses to my words alone. So far, I’ve had mixed results. I’ve dated two men seriously; one for a few months, the other for a few weeks. I was comforted to know there were people out there who shared my mindset. I’ve also gone on a number of dates with like-minded people who weren’t the keeping kind. There was either no physical chemistry or political differences of opinion too deep to overcome. I can’t date someone who doesn’t believe in the importance of social welfare programs, for example.

My online profile says I’m an intelligent, attractive, ambitious woman. I mention I’m a writer who wants to be wooed by words. I say I want more than a laundry list of hobbies. I ask for a photo or two, clothed please, promising to return the favor.

I put replies in folders so I can keep track of my suitors. My folders are labeled: “reply!,” “maybe,” “nope,” “compliments,” and “LOL.” The most interesting responses usually don’t lead to dates. Many say a lot about the people — I can’t say men, since until you meet the person it’s impossible to know — who wrote them and society at large. I’m part-lover and part social anthropologist. Human behavior intrigues me.

The messages in the “nope,” “LOL,” and “compliments” folders have taught me a lot.

But let me break it down. The “nope” e-mails are usually one- or two-liners like this:

Hi, I’m interested in you, hope to read back from you.

Or vague:

Good evening, how are you? I hope all is well. I am reaching out regarding your post. I am in my early-30’s, 5’10”, and looking to meet someone new outside of my social circle. Hobbies and interests?

I hope we have a chance to chat soon. Take care and enjoy your weekend!

If you’re looking for a wordsmith, you skip past these.

The “LOL” responses exist to remind me there are still plenty of misogynistic men who feel threatened by confident and capable women. Some believe a bad marriage is better than divorce. Many can’t imagine they might be the source of a divorce. I try not to respond to such messages. Here are a few examples, as well as my potential responses. I’ve made some minor grammatical changes for the sake of clarity, and have removed identifying details.

On divorce:

I’m white, live in [NYC borough], and [am] looking for a relationship hopefully leading to marriage and raising a family. I’ve never been married, no kids, don’t smoke or do drugs, rarely drink, no pets, not a vegetarian, and am Catholic. And you? You seem like a nice person. Why did you divorce?

Another:

The most interesting thing about [your profile] is the part where it notes you’re divorced and that you chose not to offer an explanation re: same. Thoughts?

I might reply this way:

Just because I posted an online profile with some vague details about my personal life does not mean that I owe you — someone I have never met, and know nothing about — an explanation. To be honest, I mentioned that I’m divorced for one purpose and one purpose only — to screen out people who have a problem with dating divorced women. Looks like my strategy is working.

One man responded every time I changed my profile. Here are excerpts from what I received — so delightfully — over a two-week span.

1. You’re pedestrian and obvious, you’re a plebe and a wannabe. You’re a middle-aged … student. Not sure where you get the right to be that pretentious. I wouldn’t even consider bedazzling your face with my semen.

2. I see you started four out of five paragraphs with “I.” Do you lack such an imagination as a writer that every sentence needs to start with “I” or “I’m”? Also — SELFISH. Your ad reads as “me me me me.”

3. You’re fucking stupid.

To this eloquent man (assuming he is one), I would reply:

Given that you have replied not once, not twice, but three times to my profile, not with the goal of meeting me, but of insulting me — and are therefore wasting your own time — I have no choice but to conclude that it is you who are stupid. Best wishes in your own search.

Some just don’t understand intellectual attraction:

What planet are you from where men will be drawn to your words before they are drawn to your body?

To which I would say:

Dear Sir, I am from Earth, a planet where a minority of men still desire not only physical but intellectual intimacy with their partners. This may not be your goal, but it is the goal of dozens of people who have replied to my profile. I do thank you for your kind concern, though.

My “compliments” folder exists to remind me good men are out there. Three snippets in that vein:

1. If you don’t mind me saying, this was probably the most well written and grown-up post on [this website]. I’m impressed, most everything else is devoid of any type of substance. Although I would love to go back and forth with you about any and all topics, I’m probably not what you’re looking for. But I felt compelled to write you. Anyways, I wish you the best in your journey!

2. Hi, seriously I wished I was 35. I loved everything about your ad. Unfortunately I’m [in my mid-20s]. Been looking for a woman like you for awhile but it’s so hard to find. My last relationship didn’t last long because she was more of a Nympho and I wasn’t unfortunately. But I need someone like you in my life. I hope to find my own … soul mate. I wish you all the best.

3. I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your ad. It was a pleasure to read such a well-written, clever ad. It brought a smile to my face as I perused the rest of the junk [on here] today. … Unfortunately, I’m not your type. (I fail in one important category. I’m married. Otherwise, it would be a great match.) But I wanted you to know that your ad brought a smile to my face and gave me hope of finding someone decent on [this website]. Good luck.

So there are kindred spirits out there. Somewhere. And one day I’ll find a smart, funny guy who isn’t married, isn’t crazy, and I click with. For now I’ve got medical school, and she’s a demanding mistress.

An origami crafternoon

When I was living in the Chicago area, a dear friend of mine and I would get together for what we called “crafternoons” at her house. We each had our respective activities, but would do them side by side, chatting and listening to music or having a movie on in the background.

Last weekend, a rare “free” weekend in between my surgery and psychiatry clerkships (so no studying to do), I indulged in an origami crafternoon of my own. I caught up on my favorite podcasts while folding crane notecards. The cards have an origami crane on the front, and then unfold to reveal a blank space to write a message. Below are the exteriors of four of the cards I made, with one of the interiors shown as well. Click on any of the cards to see an enlarged image.

Given that I’ve got a long weekend starting today, more origami is definitely on my to-do list.

A story from the past that explores life and death, and what makes us human

As some of you know, I write a (mostly) monthly column for an online magazine called The American. I have occasionally posted the link to that column here on my blog. But it dawned on me that those of you who read my blog might like to read these columns as well, and are unlikely to come across them unless I share them directly.

So here is the first column I wrote, published online on April 3, 2014. At this time, I was working in a neonatology research lab at Northwestern University in Chicago. In this piece, I tangle with the themes of life and death, and what makes us human.

Note: This column was first published in The American. You can access the original version here.

The taut line

As the freezer door swung shut, the gravity of what I had just done sunk in. Just 15 minutes ago, the body now stiffening inside had been running, climbing, eating, drinking. I injected it with ketamine/xylazine to anesthetize it. I cut its chest open. I put it on a ventilator. I snipped out its heart and lungs with tiny scissors.

When it was all over, I wrapped it in scratchy, brown paper towels, sealed it in a gallon plastic bag, and tossed it in the freezer. Crush a cricket and I cringe; bleed out a mouse and I didn’t blink. What did this say about me? I left the research lab that day with a furrowed brow, but without an answer.

As if I weren’t troubled enough, I realized that in medical school, which I start this fall, some professor will no doubt utter the phrase “life is sacred.” I agree. How, though, to reconcile that idea with the fact that to save human lives, to improve them, we kill other animals?

These questions have nagged me since that first mouse almost two years ago. They haven’t prevented me from working in biomedical research. But asking them forced me to probe what I am doing and why. Along the way, I have asked other questions and made other observations, which I will explore in this column. As a former reporter and editor, I come by such questions and observations naturally. For years, publishers paid me to query and conclude on matters of public interest, such as zoning laws or school board elections. I stick to science and medicine these days, since “physician-scientist” is what I want to be when I grow up (or finish medical school, at least).

That career path means working with animals — probably mice, and probably killing them in the end. Some people might say, “Oh, it’s just a mouse.” When I stare down into a yawning chest cavity, though, at a pulsing heart, that gap between man and mouse narrows for me. Life is life. Death is death. I dole out the latter. (Count for last week: 22 rats, 18 mice.)

Watching a life come and go, instigating that coming and going, unsettles me all the more because its inception is such a miracle. Even now, every time I find a new litter of pups, called “pinkies” on the first day of life for their rosy skin color, I am awed. That first day, we don’t disturb the mother or the pups. To make sure they are alive and wriggling, we peek underneath the clear, plastic cage. From that vantage point, I can still often make out the little white “milk spot” on a translucent abdomen or two. “Good, they’re nursing,” I tell myself. The pups, born naked, blind, and deaf, grow and change daily. Within one week, their ears are fully developed and fur starts to appear. By 14 days, their eyes open. That’s when we kill them.

“Kill,” though, is weighty word, rife with connotation. Instead, we usually say, “sac,” short for “sacrifice.” Though using another word changes nothing, it can allow for a change in attitude — if you let it.

It can lend some respect and dignity to the animals’ lives, some purpose in ending them, and remind us to use only as many as are necessary.

As the word “sacrifice” suggests, there are elements of ritual in what we do, at least unconsciously. The animals are housed in a separate facility; we “sac” them in our lab. After we bring the plastic cage in, one of us drops a few Cheerios — a rare, exciting treat — onto the shredded, woody bedding. I work in a neonatology lab where we study (and hope to one day prevent and treat) a chronic and sometimes fatal lung disease. This disease affects premature babies exposed to high oxygen, so the mice we sac are juveniles, usually 14 days old. The way we induce this disease in the pups is to put them into an oxygen chamber, along with their mothers. So we have to sac the moms as well. This is the hardest part for me.

“I’m sorry we have to do this, mom,” my lab manager often says as she grasps the female mouse by her tail. “Thank you for taking such good care of your babies.”

Then she gently lays the mouse, its nipples still swollen from suckling, into an anesthetic-filled glass jar. The mouse quickly asphyxiates.

Watching this for the first time shook me inside. It still does, a little bit. There is a tension there, a taut line between compassion, curiosity, concern, and conscience. Through it all, I believe in an honest search for personal reconciliation. That makes us different from mice. That makes us human.

Weird surgery perks

Beneath my white coat, you can see the maroon OR scrubs that I wore every day while on my trauma surgery rotation. Wearing these scrubs every day provided an unforeseen benefit: less laundry to do.

My enjoyment of this surgery rotation thus far has been a pleasant surprise. Besides learning about, well, surgery, I have encountered important life lessons. But I have also accrued some unforeseen benefits. I think that understanding these perks will provide additional insight into what life is like on the surgery rotation.

Chore relief. On trauma surgery, you wear scrubs all day every day, with the exception of Monday morning’s Morbidity & Mortality conference. That meant I had less laundry to do. Given that I have to lug my dirty clothes up and down several flights of stairs and down the block (I’m in a walk-up apartment, and the laundry room is in the basement of a different building), that’s no small thing.

Budget boost. When I was working with the trauma surgery team, I would leave my apartment at 5 a.m. and get home somewhere between 6 and 8 p.m. That’s a long day, by any standards. I noticed that over four weeks of that schedule, I bought significantly less toilet paper. Actually, my grocery bill was lower overall. I was so busy that I simply ate less. In part because the workday on surgery was so hectic, and in part because when I got home at night I was too exhausted to do more than shove some food in my mouth and collapse into bed.

Free medical supplies. Yesterday, while I was cooking a batch of chili, I managed to slice open my thumb on a can of diced tomatoes. I ran to the bathroom, thrust my thumb under a stream of running water, and scrubbed the cut with soap. Before reaching for the box of Band-Aids in my medicine cabinet, I turned to grab a Kleenex to dry my finger. Then I remembered that I had something much better — sterile gauze! A packet from the hospital had made its way home in my white coat pocket. Hm. Maybe I should grab some more?

I wouldn’t consider these reasons to do a surgery rotation, exactly. But since surgery is a medical school requirement, I certainly won’t turn down the random fringe benefits.

A newly prudent pedestrian

Medical school is one of the most intense experiences I can imagine. As such, I expected it to change me. It has. And in some unexpected ways.

On a recent summer evening, I walked some 15 blocks to a Thai restaurant to meet a friend for dinner. It was a lovely evening. I enjoyed the fresh air after spending so many hours cooped up in the hospital over the last several weeks. On my walk, I noticed something. Since completing my four-week trauma surgery rotation, I’d become a much more cautious pedestrian.

When waiting to cross a street with lots of traffic, I didn’t tip-toe into the street, or even stand at the edge of the curb. Instead, I hung back a few feet. I still jaywalked, but only if there were absolutely zero cars in sight. None of this dashing across the street to beat an oncoming vehicle. And when I saw someone else do that, I shook my head (literally). Even when simply walking on the sidewalk, nowhere near an intersection, I found myself paying close attention to the traffic running parallel to me — something I’d never really done before.

I had abandoned my aggressive pedestrian stance because darting into traffic saves you no more than a few seconds, and can cost you so much. I paid more attention to my surroundings because even when you’re on the sidewalk, minding your own business, a car could jump the curb and smash into you.

Technically, legally, pedestrians may have the right of way. But legality melts away in the face of a 2-ton steel monster barreling toward you.

That reality is now all too clear to me. While on trauma surgery, I’d seen too many pedestrians hit by cars. In medical lingo, this type of trauma is referred to as a “pedestrian struck.” Often the collisions resulted in simple lacerations or minor broken bones. But sometimes they resulted in coma, intubation, and craniectomy (removing part of the skull to relieve elevated pressure in the brain).

Maybe increased caution and attention won’t make being a pedestrian in New York City much safer. But they make me feel better. And that’s something, I suppose.

Good hospital food?

On Tuesday, I was scrolling through Yelp listings, looking for a place to dine that was located near my apartment on New York’s Upper East Side (UES). I saw the standard fare, as expected — Italian, Indian, Japanese, Thai, and so on. And then I saw this:

I did a double take. I expect Yelp to be comprehensive, but Memorial Sloan Cancer Center’s hospital cafeteria? I wasn’t expecting that.

I’d actually just been to this cafeteria the day before, the morning I started a four-week rotation on colorectal surgery. (This is the second four-week block of my eight-week surgery rotation.) I didn’t buy anything at the cafeteria, just peeked in. But after reading some of the reviews, I have high hopes. As usual, there were complaints. But there was a positive theme to the reviews, as evidence by this pointed comment:

It really is the best when it comes to hospital cafeteria food. Crab cakes, paninis, chicken pot pies, macadamian crusted fish. Enough said.

I’m not sure if the same could be said about the Garden Cafe at Cornell.

The Garden Cafe, for those not familiar with the UES hospital scene, is the cafeteria at New York Presbyterian Hospital. This is the main hospital affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical College, and where I do most of my clinical rotations. I agree wholeheartedly with this reviewer that the food there is nothing to write home about.

Even though it takes extra time and effort in the morning, I usually bring my own lunch — both to save money and because it’s healthier. But one of these days, I’ll have to try the cafeteria food at Memorial Sloan Kettering. See what all the fuss is about.

Four weeks of trauma surgery: lessons learned

Friday marked the last day of my four-week rotation on the trauma surgery service. As expected, it was an exhausting four weeks. But it was also incredibly exhilarating and educational. And it was filled with many profound moments that will stick with me forever.

This, in large part, was due to working with such a phenomenal team: An attending who taught me that if a trauma surgeon can take 10 minutes to sit down and talk with a patient, every physician should have time to do so; who inspired me to learn and ask questions; and who made me excited to go to work every day — even when that meant waking up at 3:30 a.m. A chief resident who carefully followed a patient’s blood tests after I got splashed in the face during a case, and personally kept me updated. A senior resident who was willing to put a nasogastric (NG) tube down my nose and throat because I wanted to know what our patients with small bowel obstructions were going through. (I’ll be writing more on that soon.) Interns who clearly wanted these four weeks to be an educational experience — and proved it by inviting us medical students to practice starting IVs on them. A fellow medical student, one I barely knew going into the rotation, who quickly became a confidant.

These are just a few examples of how my team helped make the oft-feared surgery rotation such a meaningful experience.

In medicine, you learn from your team. You also learn from your patients. Working on the trauma service for four weeks, I am now acutely aware of how a person’s life can be permanently changed — or even snuffed out — in the blink of an eye. I helped care for patients whose legs were now useless after a car crash, a gun shot wound, or even a freak fall from standing. “Pedestrian struck” was another too-common reason for admission to our service. Usually, the result was a laceration or some broken bones — things that were painful, but that would heal, with time. But sometimes the trauma of being hit by a car results in a brain bleed. Sometimes these resolve. But sometimes, they result in irreversible brain damage, or death. All because you were walking on the sidewalk, or crossing the street, at the wrong place and the wrong time. This hits especially close to home when the patient is close to my age, or reminds me of someone I know. This could happen to me. It could happen to any of the people I love. As could appendicitis, cholecystitis, or a small bowel obstruction — three other very common complaints I’ve seen on this service.

So as I interact with patients and their family members, I attempt to do two things. I first try to put myself in their shoes, as best as I can. This helps me understand (and if needed, forgive) any angry outbursts or other nastiness. It’s not personal. Second, I do my best to treat the patient, and the patient’s family, like they were my own family. I would want a doctor, nurse, or medical student to treat my parents, sisters, or friends that way. One of the trauma attendings modeled this behavior so well. When patients and their families thank him for his kindness, he tells them outright that his goal is to treat people like his own family. I’ve taken to doing the same.

These are not lessons I necessarily expected to learn on my surgery rotation. But they are important lessons that will remain with me, whatever I do in medicine.

Don’t get me wrong — I learned about surgery on my surgery rotation too — suturing, knot-tying, and so on. But I could learn those things from any surgery attendings or residents. My team helped teach me so much more.

s/p surgery rotation, week #1

My 6-oz. water bottle, which fits in my white coat pocket, helps keep me hydrated throughout the day. Its small volume keeps me hydrated enough that I don’t get lightheaded, but not so hydrated that I have to go to the bathroom all the time. In surgery, hydration is a delicate balance.

Medical student with a past life history significant for journalism, art, and piano, s/p* starting her surgery rotation 1 week ago, presents with aching feet and legs. The symptoms are most consistent with walking all over the hospital and standing for hours in the OR with inadequate footwear. The student does note that these symptoms have not affected her enthusiasm for the surgery rotation, and that assisting in several surgeries last week has only enhanced her desire to improve her surgical skills. Recommend the student continue to read more about the field of surgery, practice suturing and knot-tying at home, and buy shoes that are more comfortable to stand in for extended periods.

Part of writing up a patient note is including your “Assessment and Plan.” It’s just what it sounds like — a very brief synopsis of the person’s presenting symptoms, what you think the cause is (and why), and what you plan to do about it. The paragraph above is my own Assessment and Plan after 1 week of my surgery clerkship. In other words, the main issue is that my tennis shoes simply aren’t cutting it. Aside from that (and being tired from waking up at 4 a.m. — which is just a given), I’m really enjoying the rotation so far.

Of course, I did learn some lessons from my ob/gyn clerkship that have helped. Those of you who follow my story may remember my near-fainting incident during a C-section earlier this spring (see “Getting back up” from The American, the online magazine I write for every month). After that experience, which I attributed to hunger and dehydration, I now keep quick snacks, as well as an adorable 6-oz. water bottle, in my white coat pockets. They come in handy.

I’ve found several flavors of KIND bars (high protein, lower sugar) that keep me fed when there isn’t time for a real meal. String cheese is great too.

On Friday, for example, we had a lot of cases booked, and in two different rooms — eliminating the room cleaning break in between surgeries that gives you time to get something to eat or drink, and use the bathroom. It was around 4 p.m., and I hadn’t had time for lunch. I was staying late that evening too, and didn’t anticipate time to eat dinner either. At the completion of one case, as everyone readied to go to the next, I approached one of the residents.

“Do I have for a 2-minute snack?” I asked.

She looked intently at me as she quickly thought about my question, knowing we were on a tight schedule.

“Two minutes,” she replied.

Thank heavens for that packet of string cheese in my white coat, which was hanging in the hallway just outside the suite of operating rooms. I ate it in three quick bites, and was indeed back in about two minutes.

The clerkship orientation I mentioned in my last blog post has also come in handy. During a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal), I got to “drive” the camera for part of the procedure. I also did my best to suture closed one of the port sites used to insert the instruments. Getting that needle just where you want it is harder than it looks though, so the resident had to rescue my effort. But I’m resolved to improve.

Those were things I’d practiced (a little), and expected to try. I didn’t expect to get to help with an ulcer debridement. Debridement is the process of removing dead or damaged tissue from a wound, and in this case it was done to try to help the wound heal. After watching the resident and intern, I was allowed to snip away bits of the yellow, gooey fibrinous exudate that we wanted to eradicate. But even after we cut away as much as we could, there were little bits still stuck down, too small to remove with scissors. So we (that includes me!) used another tool.

Before we started with it, the resident picked up the handheld device, and asked me what I thought it was.

“Well, it looks like a water gun,” I told her.

She told me that’s essentially what it was — a combination water gun and suction device. It sprays a high-powered stream of water into the wound, loosening the remaining gunk, and simultaneously sucks it up.

The resident then pointed to a shield surrounding the nozzle.

“This is to keep us from getting sprayed,” she said. “Don’t spray us.”

Then after a brief demonstration, it was my turn. I considered my time with the fancy water pistol a full success: I helped clean up the dead tissue, and I avoided spraying my resident and intern in the face. Even with our eye protection, that would have been … less than ideal, to say the least.

The ulcer debridement was a procedure I had really wanted to scrub in for. Having talked so much with my mom, a hospice and palliative care nurse, about wound care, I wanted to see it in action.

Along those same lines, it was interesting for me to see bedside wound care too. Several times last week, I went along with an intern to change a dressing. The intern did most of the medical work. My main role was to distract the patient from the pain, inevitable in spite of pre-medication. So I put my palliative care hat on, glad to help ease a patient through this temporary, painful event.

More than once, an intern has apologized to me that there isn’t anything “interesting” going on for us to see. The intern was referring to the fact that some days, there are few, if any surgeries going on while us medical students are there. On the other hand, there are also days when we’re booked back-to-back, plus emergency add-on procedures. You simply never know. My response is always that (of course!) while I’m excited to scrub in for surgeries, I’m also just glad to be part of the team, helping with the little things like gathering supplies for a bedside dressing change or procedure.

It’s all part of the learning process. And that’s why I’m here.

 

*s/p, which stands for “status/post,” essentials means “after.” It’s often used in reference to procedures, such as surgeries. For example, a patient who had their gall bladder taken out 5 days ago would be referenced to as “s/p cholecystectomy 5 days ago.”