Scutmonkey Chronicles

Commentary on healthcare in general, life as a medical student, and issues of concern thereof. Readers warmly encouraged to contribute their "best" and "worst" experiences with the healthcare system (who knows, some budding young doctor might learn something from your pain...?) Submit via comments section, or email me at if you'd like to become a regular contributor. Welcome, and don't forget to double-glove!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Elbows Thrown, Hip Check Held, Not Proud...

Time flies when you're...well, mostly having fun. Finished ob-gyn last week and on to cardiothoracic surgery for this upcoming month. Sternum saws, beating hearts, and chest far, so good.

As for the title of this posting: had a little run-in last week with a fellow med student, and it has been weighing heavily on my mind. It was not a huge event, and as far as I can tell there will be no repercussions, but it still has given me pause about this whole pursuit of a medical degree and what effect it can have on us as people.

The rotation I just finished takes students from two med schools--one student a month from mine, and four at a clip from a slightly more prestigious (but not neccessarily better one) in an adjoining state. The timing of clerkships for the two schools is about ten days off, so I had been at the place the better part of two weeks when the other group showed up.

I must preface this by saying that of the students I've met from that other school, the vast majority are very professional and easy to get along with. Student Doctor Exception, as I'll refer to her, must recently have spent a few nights curled up with the paperback version of "How to Cut Throats and Influence People." I've been in some pretty competitive circumstances, but I can't recall anything so blatant as the tactics this woman used. Think about Julie Oh's character on "Grey's Anatomy." Now multiply that by about ten.

What really chapped my ass about this person was that when her group showed up, I went out of my way to be nice to them--gave them the grand tour, the inside scoop on program politics, and some crucial notes were not provided to me when I showed up. Maybe she somehow perceived that I was at an advantage and decided she'd have to knock me off to become Alpha Dog (or bitch, as the case may be.) Which is kind of silly, considering that we go to different schools, have different professional interests, and will not, therefore, be competing for a residency spot.

All of which I tried to keep in mind while for two weeks while this person severely tried my patience. I did a more or less decent job ignoring her moronic behavior, right up to the last day of the rotation. About ten of us were walking through the Path Lab to look at some cancer slides--the setup of the place is a small room with four interconnected microscopes--we were about a step and a half from the microscopes when Ms. Congeniality not-so-subtly pushed me aside to get the seat I was headed for. At that moment, despite all my deep-breathing and oathes against agressive acts, my right elbow flew away from my body, into her ribcage, and it was all I could do not to throw her into the nearest doorframe.

Immediately, I was ashamed of this response. Still, I can't convince myself that letting her push me aside would have been the right move either. Probably some alternative route involving a quiet discussion and mediation would have been the best choice, but at that sleep deprived moment, it just didn't happen.

Nobody in the group commented on the interchange, but I'm sure it was seen. I know I didn't sleep that night, although I doubt Student Doctor Cutthroat lost any rest over it. What I do know is I don't want to be like her, and I'm glad those characteristics really are not required to be a good doctor. Now, I'll just have to convince my elbow of that...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A Room, With Materials...

Ob/Gyn, week two of four. Not what I want to do, but pretty darned interesting. Some of the things I've learned, in no particular order:

1. Shoe covers exist for a reason, especially in the delivery room.

2. Every woman who delivers a baby deserves the equivelent of the Purple Heart.

3. Observeration #2 not withstanding, it's a bad sign if the mother-to-be watches "Nickelodeon" or "Divorce Court" through the delivery.

Spent three days this week shadowing a Reproductive Endocrinologist. What that specialty boils down to is assisting infertile couples in conceiving. Although heavily reliant on technology, this is as much art as science.

You can probably imagine the level of emotion involved in these interactions and the people skills needed to deal with the feelings that come into play for the patients and their partners. One definite up-side here is that the patients are a highly motivated group, a much different demographic than the "can't afford the ultrasound but can't give up the cigarettes" crowd the typical obstetrician is confronted with.

The guy I was following has a big following, evidenced in large part by the number of his patients who are doctors or nurses themselves. One of the ways he builds confidence in his practice is to recruit really top-notch staff. Another is an immaculately decorated office: expensive furniture; expensive prints on the walls; not a speck of dust in sight. Which, in part, explains an overriding and morbid curiousity I developed during the week...

At a certain point during every consult, the good doctor delves into the particulars of providing a sperm sample. Being the astute and tactful gentleman he is, all of this is couched in very subtle language, leading up to mention of a certain "Room, with Materials." Nestled into my thousand-dollar chair, I'd have to bite my lip at the mental image of a porn-corner in the walls of this fine, fine office.

No self-respecting med student could have left the practice without at least attempting to get a glimpse at the Room. The problem: being the classy facility it was, there was no sign tacked up to divulge its location. Which would neccessitate skulking around the office when the halls looked empty, opening every door, excuse at the ready in case I was discovered. (Porn room? Gosh no...I was looking for paperclips.) Not so subtle...

I never did find the Room. Not that I tried all that hard. Maybe it's better that way.