Observations from ob/gyn
by Lorien E. Menhennett
I’ve almost finished my fourth week (out of six) on ob/gyn. What a refreshing change from sitting in a lecture hall. I keep meaning to sit down and write about what I’m seeing and learning, but I’m always … So. Tired. Many of the days are long. Regardless of the number of hours, I come home exhausted. That’s not a complaint, it’s merely a statement of fact. And it’s exactly what I expected. I’m gradually adjusting. Some moments are stressful (like the few seconds before I launch into presenting a patient’s case to my resident); others are absolutely thrilling (like watching a baby being born, and then helping deliver the placenta). But it’s a roller coaster I’m glad to be on.
So far I’ve had two weeks on gynecology (mainly observing surgeries), a week of maternal fetal medicine (high-risk obstetrics), and four days of labor and delivery (assisting with births and covering “triage,” which is essentially the emergency room for pregnant women).
In brief, before I dash off, here are a few observations of my time so far.
I really like talking to patients. That might sound silly, like it should be obvious. I’ve gone into medicine, of course I should like talking to patients. But I really do. When I was on the gynecology service, rounds — when the doctors and students go see each patient first thing in the morning — were usually between 6:30 and 7 a.m. As medical students, it was our job to “pre-round” — to go see each patient before rounds, to see how they were doing, what happened overnight, to do a brief physical exam. Then we presented each patient to the residents. The first morning I went to pre-round, as I stood outside the patient’s door, I was terrified. But once I walked in the room and started talking to her, it felt so right. I felt at home asking, listening, answering, and examining. I quickly discovered that if you’re wearing a white coat, people think you know things, and so they ask you questions in return. And I do know a few things. But I’m careful to always acknowledge my limitations as a student.
Medicine is a humbling profession. During these few weeks, I’ve shared some of people’s happiest — and most tragic — moments. Watching a baby escape the uterus during a C-section, and then seeing the parents hold their new child for the first time … I felt a slice of their joy. While on my maternal fetal medicine elective, I also saw the other end of the spectrum. Several times, I stood beside the physician as she told a couple that their pregnancy was not viable. In those instances, I felt a sliver of their pain. It’s a privilege to share these moments with people, to celebrate with them in their happiness, or to stand in solidarity with them in their sorrow: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
Clinicals are a real bonding time for us medical students. On both gynecology and labor and delivery, I’ve spent hours upon hours with fellow students I barely knew at the onset of the rotation. That quickly changed. We’d share bits of information we’d gathered — how to find the template for writing notes in the convoluted electronic medical records system, for example. Or even simpler things — where the closest bathroom is, where to find surgical gowns in the supply room. In moments of doubt, we’d huddle and confer, united in our uncertainty. These people were near-strangers to me initially. But I witnessed so many times when someone bent over backwards for a classmate. I’ve heard that it can go the other way, that some people will throw you under the bus. But I’ve never seen anything like that. More than ever, I deeply respect my classmates, and feel honored to be working with them.
Sounds like you’ve gotten to the heart of medicine–being present and listening–and sharing the people’s journey!
Glad you have some helpful homies (fellow students) for mutual support as you go through these challenging times!