Teaching

This is dedicated to everyone who works at the Sparrow Central Clinic and all of the incredible clinicians who allowed me to shadow them.

This post comes with a little update on my recovery: after review of my neuropsychological report, it has been deemed that I require an independent neuropsychological evaluation with the neuropsychologist of Sparrow’s choosing. I am slated to undergo this testing in early February. In the meantime, I have been allowed to return to the clinic in an observership role. Even though this simply entails me following either the supervising physician or resident, just being back in the clinic is a significant step in my recovery. The importance of this may be more nominal than tangible, however, being able to be with patients again, seeing the smiling warm faces (of people like Marcie Powers and Liz Cholakis, two of our fantastic program coordinators), bantering with the staff nurses, medical assistants, and front staff, or even seeing my colleagues at work, has all been truly cathartic for me. I mentioned this in an earlier post, but it’s worth mentioning again: Seeing patients puts me at peace. I had so many questions and apprehensions about seeing patients: how would they perceive me? What if a titubation episode occurred during our encounter? What would they think of my slower speech? Would too much focus be taken away from the patient?[1]  But when I met with Dr. Osuch (see the earlier post), who also had a brain tumor removed, she reassured me, “Chris, patients are incredibly understanding,” she went on, “they can handle more than we realize.” In my two weeks back in the clinic, my fears have been quelled, and Dr. Osuch’s words have been validated: I have not suffered a titubation episode while with a patient and thus far none of our visits have been spent explaining my condition. Dr. Osuch was right, the patients just seem to understand. Even though they arrive at the clinic with a myriad of their own medical issues, they somehow find a way to process and understand the situation.

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Much of my time in the clinic is spent shadowing other clinicians. I have been fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to shadow many of the resident physicians who were interns when I had my surgery. I had spent 10 months as their senior, and now the tables had turned and they were my superiors. Seeing each of them work brought out so many emotions in me, the main one was pride. I had played (albeit small) a part in their development, and seeing their progression from lowly intern to fully functioning senior residents evoked a sense of pride. I had been granted this rare opportunity to see firsthand the minor role I had in their development. This made me think, how has the role of teaching played out in my recovery? And have my views changed as my perspective has changed?

—- Stinky —-

In medicine, many of the lessons learned only come with time. There is a certain art of medicine that cannot be acquired through reading. The purpose of residency is to prepare future physicians; this creates the constant battle in residency between learning through words (this includes lectures, articles, and textbooks) and ‘trial by fire’.[2] The residents I was now shadowing had only just gone through this struggle, and I was the lucky one to be their senior when they went through it. Before my surgery, I remember speaking to an intern in distress: the stresses common to internship were getting to him. I told him, “Being an intern stinks. You’re given this responsibility of managing patients but really don’t know how to do it. It’d be like being given keys to a brand new car before knowing how to drive. What makes it worse is that everyone somehow knows you’re an intern, it’s almost as if you walk around with a sign around your neck labeling you as such. People in medicine know that interns don’t really have much experience, in fact it’s assumed,” I went on (besides trying to convey to him that I understood his struggle, I was also trying to convince him of the light at the end of the tunnel), “but it gets better. Besides adding to your medical and clinical knowledge, you learn the ropes of the hospital. You figure out how to drive so you can enjoy that new car.” This group of people that were fresh out of medical school before my surgery were now ready to become practicing, self-sufficient physicians. I had always loved teaching before my surgery, but being able to see the metamorphosis of my colleagues only reinforced this notion. The joy I get from being in the clinic came from this unexpected source: the knowledge and expertise of my colleagues and the fact that I played a role in their development as physicians.

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[1] If too much of the visit’s attention was diverted to me, the purpose of the visit would be lost.

[2] The idea here is that the more time spent in the hospital with patients, the better prepared you will be.

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