Performing Procedures in Medical School

It's me Jason and I am sharing stories from my friends who are either physicians or medical students and we all attended Northwestern University at some point or another to earn our undergraduate degrees.


Let me begin with the second year medical student and procedures. I almost didn't have a chance to meet because this 2nd year was scheduled to have a class on a Saturday morning, yes a weekend. Remember medicine is going to be 24/7 so you better get used to it now.

But back to the story.

The second year medical students were excited because today they would be doing prostate exams and breast exams. For those who are unclear about what a prostate exam consists of it means the clinician will insert their finger into the patient's rectum and in-order to feel the prostate gland.

One a side note I was home a few weeks ago and went out for dinner with some non-medical friends from high school and you'd be amazed at what people know and do not know. A majority of the people in attendance did not know what the prostate is or whether females had a prostate gland or not. Since, I had the most medical knowledge amongst the group I had to set the record straight and illustrate that only males had a prostrate gland.

As you can tell I like to run off on tangents with my stories but hey it makes for a better story overall in my opinion, but let's get back to the second year medical students.

They were very excited, to the point of bragging that they had just conducted a prostate exam on "patients" at the medical school. You'll notice I used quotes around patients because technically these are not patients rather paid actors/patients who agree to let medical students practice procedures on them in return for monetary compensation.

But the medical students said it was amazing when they talked to non-medical people the response they got. All non-medical people found hearing about prostrate exams and breast exams to be gross. As you progress in medicine you'll become accustomed to the gross things that are apart of the body and bodily fluids while everyone else will think what you're doing and talking about is absolutely disgusting.

So the take away lesson is to know your audience before telling others about your day or what you got to do while in medical school or any part of medicine for that matter.

And then there's the story from the third year medical student.

Once you start your third year all your time is spent at the hospital and you're basically on call. But there's more to it then just being at the hospital working with the doctors, patients and hospital staff. You have to go home and then study on for the "shelf exam," which is a multiple choice exam on the specialty your are currently rotating on.

So the learning and testing never stops.

I had a friend at Boston University School of Medicine and his schedule for third year was crazy during one rotation. He would need to be at the hospital at 7am and wouldn't leave until 6 or 7pm at night and then once home he'd eat quickly and study until midnight or 1am all to be back at the hospital at 7am the next day. How's that for having a tough schedule?

In medicine they commonly say, "See one, do one, teach one."

Basically, watch someone higher than you do a procedure, then you have to do one and the third time you'll be teaching someone lower than you how to do a procedure.

Well, this third year medical student was working in the Emergency Dept. and there was a patient with a severely distended stomach and to alleviate all the fluid an endotracheal tube needed to be placed. The third year student was responsible for placing the tube under the direction of the resident and the stench was very foul as you had a very large accumulation of fluid in the patient's abdomen.

At the end of the day, this third year medical student thought nothing of the procedure because it was just another day in the ER for them. As you progress through medicine this may be the same for you too. Where something that others consider to be an extreme case or procedure becomes run of the mill type work for you as a medical professional.

But the third year student did mention you can't lose sight of the whole doctor-patient relationship and being empathetic towards your patients and their families. If you're unsure about this you will have plenty of time to pick up on the characteristics of how to interact with several classes and mentorships that you'll have to take before starting on the wards.

Lastly, my friend said that having a smartphone has dramatically changed their medical experience during the clinical years. With apps and access to the internet it is like carrying a whole slew of books in your pocket where it is extremely easy to look up anything that you'll need to deal with patients or answer the questions of the attending doctors.

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