Monday, February 16, 2009

The slightly drunkish med student talks about ward rounds

I'm not drunk. If I concentrate, I can still say "cyanide and thalidomide" without the syllables blurring together... at least, I can if I concentrate. Besides, I can type. Right?

You go through a whole day muttering swear words in your head. Everyone acts so patronising... the doctors, the patients, even the other medical students. Patronising in such an unhelpful way. Is it because I'm a girl? Or because I am young? Or because I am physically smaller? Or because I am an Asian? Or a combination of the above? Life on the wards is no fun for a young female short Asian medical student, maybe. But I'm not even all that short. Before I went and did medicine, I was a bloomin allied health professional, dammit, and they would have paid much more respect to me back then. Grrah.

So when my flatmates come home, having had a rough day on the mental health unit themselves, and having gone and bought some alcohol... the only fitting thing to say was: why not? They poured me a big glass of this really bitter thing. I poured a lot of it down the sink when they weren't watching... I hope they don't find out, I think that stuff is expensive.

The doctors on ward round stand around the patient's bed... one consultant, one registrar, two interns, three medical students... sometimes, one nurse. That's four doctors, three doctors-in-training, and a nurse. Eight medics. The doctors flip through the charts, murmur to each other, look at the progress... looking down at the creature before them like it's an intellectual puzzle, the way you'd look at a crossword or a jigsaw puzzle. The effing intern prims her hair, writes in the chart with her careful neat handwriting, stamps the chart carefully and proudly (are you proud of your stamp, which says "Doctor"? Live up to the title, you highly decorated waste of space), having never said a word to the person whoes chart she is writing in. The patient is not a person: he is a puzzle to be solved, a medical enigma, with a set of blood test results and obs. If the puzzle is solved, the person need not be dealt with. Once, when the consultant left to answer a phone call, the group huddled around a patient, and then proceeded to talk about another patient (of course never mentioning names), completely ignoring the one before them. I was angry enough to really make some enemies in there.

A few of them (the patients, that is) I have spoken to before; heard their stories... the son in university, the business for sale, the failing heart, the aging spouse at home awaiting for them to return home. When we enter, like a mob from the movies, they recognise me: the one person in this 7-doctor posse who has spoken to them for more than 2 or 3 sentences. Their eyes light up. "Hello, love", they say. "Yes, of course I remember you."

Today a patient was going to be discharged... he was finally allowed to go home to his wife and help out with the financial burdens of the family. He shook the consultant's hand. "Thank you doctor." he said. Then he turned to me: "And thank you." I hadn't done anything. I'd just sat down opposite him, and we only talked for about twenty minutes. A patient shouldn't need to thank a 3rd year medical student. I was angry to the point of tears.

Of course I have much more to complain about. The older medical student (older in age, not in training) who treats me like a primary schooler, despite the fact that he's never worked in health before... the doctors who think that if they ignore medical students then they will magically train themselves into doctors... the whole f***ing establishment, who thinks that if you sell your soul then maybe, just maybe, you will be considered good enough.

You could say that I am negative because I've been drinking. But you could also say that I've been drinking because the outlook is very negative. Now I think about it, my last drink was quite a few hours ago anyway. I'm not even sleepy anymore.

I guess I will make an attempt to do some reading, another little droplet to fill the vast emptiness that is my brain... then go to sleep... and wake up to another brilliant day on the ward.