Monday, July 07, 2008

Oh, you're a medical student?

Now that I'm well into medical school... well, who am I kidding, this happened back in pre-med too... family or friends or even strangers are willing to tell me the most gruesome details of their personal medical lives.

It's partly a testament to the amount of respect doctors have. They know that I should be able to understand that part of their lives a bit differently than some of their other friends. They know that I won't go broadcasting their story to the rest of the family.

It's also partly a testament to apathy. Why book an appointment when Vitum is here and I can just ask him? I'm not mocking them... just saying, there are plenty of things I've not bothered to see a doctor about that maybe I should have (like how it always burns when I use the toilet).

They way I respond to these varies on the situation. Sometimes it's about old aunt Helga who is having trouble getting up off the couch these days, and I smile and nod. Sometimes it's about Jimmy's dad who now has a tumour, and I ask if they have biopsied it yet and how the treatment is coming along. Sometimes its about the fungating, smelly growth on their foot, which they insist on showing me, wafting its visible fumes vigorously towards me ("Does that smell like anything bad?") - for those people, I try to encourage them to see a doctor and explain I haven't had a lecture on that yet so please take it away from my face...politely.

I don't usually provide an opinion as we've been warned to not provide advice to people outside the office setting (or at all, really, right now, since we're still students) - we've been told enough horror stories of lawsuits from such situations - so I usually simply tell them that's something they should discuss with a doctor. I don't want to be telling somebody that a mole is nothing of concern and have it turn out to grow into a massive tumour.

However, a couple times I've grown quite concerned after I asked a few questions and end up being a bit more insistent that they go see their doctor. In fact, for a couple of my friends, I asked them to go the hospital right away. One of those people ended up needing surgery.

I appreciate being the person that people feel they can approach with questions, and being able to apply my interest in science to the answers. That's undoubtedly one of the many things that attracted me to medicine as a career. We'll see if I can put up with it happening more than once or twice every few weeks.

A story on this topic: Blinded by the Silver Lining


Anonymous said...

One of the nice things about being a respiratory therapist is that we're mostly unknown by the greater public. When people find out I'm a respiratory therapist, they usually give me a blank stare for a moment and then utter something like "huh" and continue on without pursuing it. I have been asked for advice before by family members, and I'm more than happy to explain RT things to people, but I can't imagine how frequently this must happen to you when people find out you're a med student.

CountyRat said...

Get used to it, young man. You will discover that, if you put on a white coat with a stethoscope in the pocket, people will tell you things you never imagined possible. And, some of the things they tell you will even be true. Partially.

Anonymous said...

It's one of the nice things about being a pathologist. No-one wants to show me their lesions!

Unknown said...

This hit close to home. I'll never forget how during my first month of medical school a casual conversation with a bus driver I'd never met turned into the revelation that his brother with a new born baby was dying from "heart trouble" in the hospital. This came directly following the usual small talk that led to "so what are yuou studying?" He then proceeded to ask me what I thought his brother's chances were right as my stop came up. I'll never forget how betrayed he looked when I stepped off the bus, dumbfounded and not being able to reply.

ps - new blog! fellow canadian med student!

CountyRat said...

Useful response to people who ask you about their medical conditions at parties and such: Listen attentively. Stroke your chin thoughtfully (beards, though helpful, are optional). Then say, "Humm that IS interesting. Please take off your clothes and lay down . . . . ."