Monday, 10 May 2010

What are we supposed to do?

As medical students, sometimes we encounter situations we are not at all expecting, and that we struggle to deal with because it's not something we've yet covered in our training. We then don't get the opportunity to later discuss how best we should have dealt with the situation, so when it comes to the next time around (which inevitably, there WILL be a next time) we have very little idea what we should do, what we're supposed to do. Thing is, I just can't work out how to change this. It needs to change. We can't be left feeling like this every time we encounter situations like this.

Ideas on a postcard please.

Alternatively you can email me or DM me.


  1. It's an odd situation. I'd love to have complete command of all subject areas when interviewing patients, but it's impossible to do without interviewing patients!

    So there isn't really a solution, other than reducing patient contact time, to patients that the doctors have handpicked as perfect for students. In doing that, you're going to get a tiny fraction of the patients you currently see, as those leading the teaching don't have the time to hand pick perfect patients like they do to say "this guy has something interesting, ask him".

    As to how you manage it? Another toughy. I think you've just got to play it by ear. See it as what it is, practice at getting to the point. Practice your communications skills as well as history taking. But also, be prepared to back out and run away when you get out of your depth. Look after yourself.

    My way of looking at it is that this kind of thing will happen even when we're out of training, so we'd better just put up with it as you will when you're out of training. And if that means saying you're not comfortable, then run away! :)

  2. Remember that your work is not your life. Come home at the end of the day, do somehting completely self-indulgent that makes you feel happy and be thankful that your lot in life is more fortunate than theirs, and that you can use that to your advantage to help them for the brief time that you met them. Let it touch you so you are ready for it next time, but not too deep that you stress over it and it affects any future patients you see or your life outside of your work and your studies. I saw a fair amount of cases like that on my work experience, and I'm so glad I did, because I know I am better prepared to handle it for real when I see it next time. You only gain experience after you need it most.

  3. I found the same thing in some situations, and have thought how good it would be to get advice from other people and just unload after these situations.

    There's something psych trainees do, I can't remember the exact name of it, but they have meetings weekly to discuss how they felt about seeing different patients and the challenges surrounding them. We had one session like this in psych and it was so useful. Not only are there more senior people to offer advice but it's sometimes nice to chat about it with your peers.

    I always feel much lighter inside after discussing a tricky patient situation with someone. Even talking about it vaguely to maintain patient confidentiality really helps. If you ever feel you need a chat or a rant about something you've seen at med school feel free to get in touch :)


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