Monday, February 27, 2012

Not a product placement

I recently realized that my white coats were, how shall we say, not white. They were not as gross as you might now be imagining, because the average day in the hospital does not include getting others’ bodily fluids on my coat, but the collars and the cuffs showed that grey tinge that comes from a revolting combination of pen ink from note-taking, water from hand-washing, and sweat from question-answering. I usually use an “earth conscious” detergent, one that is slightly cheaper than the wholly organic versions, but still leaves out most of the chemicals I dislike. Much as I love the lavender aroma and non-toxic fumes of this particular detergent, however, it lacks the vigorous stain-removing properties of a more earth-killing soap. At the recommendation of a classmate, I invested in some Oxy-Clean and pre-treated my white coats, and then soaked them for several hours, and then washed them in hot water. They are now mostly white, and I feel reassured that they do not contain any kind of terrifying bacteria because the combination of detergent that probably hastens the end-of-days with it’s whitening power and hot water is apparently a winning one. I feel a little guilty, actually admitting that the soap that kills is the soap that actually works better, but sometimes, maybe, I guess, a little man-made miracle is necessary. But I’ll probably keep hiding it deep within the closet and only bring it out for the white coats that themselves harbor germs that could bring on the apocalypse.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Winning the game

Cross posted on Dose of Reality

I’m now two weeks into my internal medicine rotation, and I’m learning a lot. It’s been, how shall we say, a steep learning curve, and I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it; it’s humbling to realize that even in the 10th month of my M3 year I still don’t really know what I’m doing. In spite of bumbling around more than a little, I realized that yesterday (and carrying over to today) I won the game, or rather, my residents won the game for me. Inside the hospital, patients who are admitted go to different teams on different days depending on who is on call. My team admits new patients every other day. This means that the other every other days (except for some minor technicalities) we don’t admit new patients, and instead just care for those that we already have on our service. This also means that if one manages to discharge all of one’s patients on a call day, that the next day there isn’t anything to do! This is called winning the game. That’s what happened yesterday – while I was away at lecture, my patients were discharged and I showed up this morning with very little to do. The reality of being a medical student (and arguably this is the only situation in which the interns have a better deal), however, means that I just picked a new patient from one of the many already on our list, and started reading about her for Monday.

Somewhere between celebrating that I might get to head out a little early on a Saturday, and lamenting that a med student’s work is never done, I wondered a bit at the phrase “winning the game.” It’s obvious that being in the hospital isn’t a game for most people; I’ve heard some general lecturing about how inappropriate it is to joke about patients, and do my best to be respectful of every person I encounter. That said, if you can’t laugh about your life (and my life is pretty much the hospital at this point), what can you do? Of all of the different coping mechanisms we all use to keep working when our patients leave for home, hospice, or the hereafter, I’m not sure that humor isn’t one of the least destructive options, so I guess I’ll just keep on laughing until I can’t…

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Wonder Dog

The NYTimes posted a really beautiful piece about service animals for children with emotional and other mental health issues that I read this morning. It described how sensitive dogs are to people’s emotional needs, and how perceptive they can be to subtle disturbances in mood and behavior. I thought the article was a nice follow-up to my last post about how helpful Walter was in coping with the emotional ups and downs of medical school. Read the article here, and if you care to, leave a comment about it below.

Friday, February 03, 2012

A prescription for sanity

Take 1 ridiculous moment as needed for anxiety

I’ve just finished my psychiatry rotation, and am more convinced than ever that all of the little things we do to keep it together during medical school are really, really important. Even with the amazing hours (and they call it “psych-ation” for a reason), psychiatry can be really emotionally taxing. There are generally a lot of small steps between mental illness and recovery, and at points it can feel like you aren’t going anywhere. My antidote to the sometimes overwhelming sensation that nothing I was doing was helping anyone was to spend a few hours to make something for someone else (and particularly for the little photogenic snuggly someone else you see pictured above and below).

Note to self: try not to forget this lesson for the 1,000,000th time…

For those of you who are wondering, the pattern for the coat is courtesy of my very own nemesis, Martha Stewart. I considered several other options, including this one, but was drawn in by Martha's dog fashion show (scroll to the sidebar)...