Jul 21, 2011

Social Reality Check

So I was wandering around the interweb before bed and discovered this thread, granted an old one: Dating a Medical Student. I focus on what medical school is like and the whole doctor scene, because hey, I'm self centered, but this is the whole "Other" view.

I'm not a student anymore woot, but it wasn't so much just the original post that paused me, but all the comments. It seems like dating us requires the same level of support group as one needs to, say, cope with being in love with a meth addict... who gambles... with babies.

Now, if I'm on youtube or something, I feel confident in the fact that the average commenter makes less sense than a monkey smearing feces on the keyboard, but this whole thing consists largely of well thought ideas and whole trends I see rampantly in myself, and previously defined more as "Weird independent female" and less "medical student stereotype". Are we that insufferable? Are we really that inevitably well defined?

Jul 19, 2011

Medical mysteries in action...

You creep around the corner of the kidney, and there you see it, a throbbing gelatinous evil blob of tissue. You've fought this beast before. You bring your scalpel down and it screams. You grab it with the forceps so it can't wriggle out of reach and stab it again, cramming its protesting pieces into separate cassettes, so it can't reform vampire style.

Sighing, you resheath your blade in the curiously inefficient "safety" device used for them and take a deep breath. "Looks like I just blocked *your* flow", you say smirking, as hot lab ladies flock to your sides.

The next morning... the hearing... you're hungover... those ladies wouldn't entertain themselves after all, and with gams up to where their gams go, well, you don't tell em no. Still, no reason to ruin a good day. You stroll up to the corralled kidney tumor and throw its body under a microscope, give its family a good funeral, give a little lesson to is brothers... but wait... your blurry vision clears... you clean the scope.

That's not your tumor. It's a stranger. You look through the books on em, maybe bluff him a bit. Yeah, tumor. We know about you. We know about your brother. You're rare huh? Must be sitting here thinking you're pretty badass. So rare that the dregs down at county won't know what to do with you eh? I tell ya what, punk? I put condor eggs in my gin fizzes. That give you an idea what I think of rare? I spat in his face. You make me sick. And you're going down. I stormed out of the lab, before he could see he was getting to me.

As I brushed through the doors, the secretaries hastily fought for my arms. "Don't go!", they were flapping. The dames could wait. I had a book to read.

Jul 18, 2011

Skills to learn...

For the past four years, I have not regular access to what people would conventionally call a "kitchen". Not that I was an exceptional cook before that. In Grenada, after a semester on campus with a stove top, I got my wonderful little apartment that featured a propane stove that my former Peace Corps working friend had to show me how to use, the oven was too small for almost anything, and two of the burners worked. The settings on those burners was "large open flame" and "No large open flame". Could make the hell out of some old fashioned popcorn though.

Moving onto Brooklyn, I graduated to a surprisingly similar gas/two burner functional half kitchen, which my roommate used enviably, but I mainly lived off of takeout, both as a function of kitchen size and laziness.

Now I live in a large three bedroom house that has a ginormous kitchen with an electric (gasp) stove. Roommate 1 cooks like a mofo. Like "Oh, these peaches are about to go bad and bazam restaurant quality pastry." I also have a yard now so the first thing I did upon having access to a vehicle was buy a grill because if there's one type of cooking I can do it's "Char things over fire" (thanks, Grenada!).

So I'm finally trying to cook quality food. I am pretty pleased with my blackberry cobbler and tonight, upon being too lazy to stop at the Piggly Wiggly (yes, really) on my way home from work, concocted a stir fry out of rice noodles and pale ale (no sherry) and it (drumroll) didn't suck!

I consider this further evidence of my whole "medical school delays maturity" hypothesis. By next year, I'll be buying car insurance and all matter of other things that most people master around age 25.

Jul 16, 2011

Free pizza remains awesome

Yeah, I pretty much talk about food and booze. If you're looking for decent medical advice, this may be the time to StumbleUpon elsewhere.

The patient-information-free update... soooo difficult.

If this entire process has made me anything, it's paranoid. Not mature, by any stretch of the imagination, but I start to think "You know where I went to school; you know where I'm doing residency; if I tell you the cases I'm grossing, you'll know who my patient is, and you'll HIPAA until I cry uncle."

So, pathology seems to be a two way street. If you guys are complete science dorks with a love for a full night's sleep, this is seriously the way to go. I spent time today trying to think of a residency that generally has better hours, and I couldn't think of one. On the minus side, it's very hard to tell anyone what you do. You will either bore them or horrify them. Possibly a little bit of both. In completely unrelated news, the roommate that now knows how I spent the day thinks I'm hardcore metal, but I believe may be a little wary of me. I went to a bar for my Friday night fuel, and generally introduced myself to the young and innocent by saying "I work at the hospital". One, because they're all youngsters and I seem to get carded enough to pass for one of them, and two, because "I'm a doctor" both carries with it snob weight *and* requires a little explanation of what I do... which may involve either "I sat at a microscope for ten hours" (boring to the public) or "I (censored) a baby and now you're horrified, and I have to be all "Oh, but... it wasn't cool. Except it was. Sigh. Who wants a free round?"

For those of you that can't connect the dots (hopefully most of you), I'm in a University program now, and it rules. Every day, we get "zebra cases". It's not that we have a bunch of the same rare stuff, but whether I'm grossing (cutting up surgical specimens), previewing (pretending I know what these things are) or signing out (having the attending demonstrate that I don't know what these things are), it's always some bizarre things, because pathologists just don't do that much normal.

Today I got to really have control of dictation for the first time. It is the most intimidating thing. English is genuinely my first language. I always got A's in the subject matter; I worked as a frigging technical writer, and public speaking does not give me hives. When you stick a specimen in front of me and a microphone in my face, it's magical. I literally forget how to name colors. I will be looking at a pink strip of skin and thinking it's a pink strip of skin, and my dictation will read "Uhhh... (rustling) Uhhh... Specimen A is... uh... submitted in formalin... and... uh... is... a... color... I think it's pink... that is.... 5... by 2 by zero point 3.... centimeters... wait.... zero point four.... centimeters... in... uhhh.... aggregate... and consists of... a... uhhh... puce fragment of... sorry... addendum... my name's Ishie... I work for ya'all."

It's like pulling teeth.

So that's a life lesson. All the times where you thought acting or reading or any other performance based field was a stupid overpaid profession, just to let you know, you probably suck at it. A lot. Like, you should feel bad, you probably suck so much.

Along with dictating, I'm grossing. I'm learning how to cut specimens so that they show me what I'm interested in. Tumor margins, type of tissue, how the normal tissue looks, whether it's near the blood vessels, that's all based on my decisions. The negative side is that it's stressful. I don't want to sample a curiously benign scrap of tissue only to have the rest of it be malignant horror cancer. The positive side is that I feel like by the end of the year, I'll be a kickass sushi chef, and won't have to pay 2 bucks a slice for scallops.

Reading/signing out... it is difficult to describe how tired this makes you. My friends are working from 6 AM to 10 PM six days a week, and I am decidedly not. But after about hour 6 on the scope, you start to go cross eyed. You feel dumber than usual. You require the department's free pizza for brain carbs. Yeah.

I can't complain too much though. I was talking about this on the phone with my mom today. I am doing exactly what I wanted to do since I was a tween. It's fucking cool; I can't lie. I cut up a case today that I was uncertain about because it was a complete mess, and on section, it was absolute textbook of a condition that fascinates me. I hope I never stop realizing how lucky I am to be where I am, in a program that's awesome and not malignant, and just be at this whole stage of my life. I can see how people would start in this field and completely hate it; I do. If you want to "help people", as we all wrote in our personal statements, and then are counting the mitoses in a high power field, you may not feel very doctory, particularly when you're trying to pick up a history major that's 9 years younger than you, but whatever you do in medical school, if you love it? Freaking do it. Your residency will be so much better by virtue of it.

Jul 3, 2011

White coats obtained, time for a three day weekend

So I dunno how much of this blog is like "Shut up with your whining already" and how much is like "Shut up with you're 'my life rules' crap", so I'm just going to go with the latter because on the odd periods that I give in to complete egocentricity and reread previous entries, the whiny ones are where I want to slap myself the most. Plus, I don't feel whiny right now, because dude... I'm not sure when the other "this residency can't be this good" shoe is going drop, but it hasn't yet, and they're long past the point of needing to lie to us.

It's various stuff coming together too. I've had some nastiness in my life where it seemed like the forces of nature converged to make everything suck. Oh, you're out of money? Well, this seems like a good time for your car to break down. While you're walking to a phone booth (they had those back in my day, you damn kids)? Good time for someone to yell stuff out a window at you and then it starts raining.

This is like the reverse of that. My colleagues are awesome; I like all of them. Unless you count the discriminating finesse of the match (aka, the blind dartboard of chance), the hospital has nothing to do with that. The hospital is gorgeous. The other residents are nice. The attendings are friendly. They have parties, like, a lot. The hours aren't horrible. My insta roommates on Craigslist turned out to be great in a house I like, a situation which I really threw myself into without much of a safety net, and easily could have ended in a spectrum of awful from "meth lab" to "human skin suit". Stephen Colbert randomly shows up the day I start residency.

It's not *completely* random, granted. Homeboy is from here, and the school has a Colbert library for a reason, but I tried for two years in New York to cross him off my NYC bucket list along with the Daily Show to no avail, and boom, he shows in Charleston on July 1st.

Scored tickets to that, because, really? and then as I was sitting in the best altitude sickness seats that thirty dollars could buy, the interviewer came on stage and said "Stephen would like to welcome everyone to the lower seats" or something like that, so I ended up 5-10 rows from the stage. And he talked for two hours. And did a song and dance from Strangers with Candy. The whole time I had a complete doofus grin on my face.

Today was the full GME party (as opposed to the outgoing residents' party, the welcome to our department party, and the late fourth of July party next week) and it was held at a marina. After discovering the open bar and caterers walking around, I walked to the end of the pier to a pod of dolphins that was just chilling.

I keep expecting to wake up in some dystopian nightmare strapped to a wall explaining to a man in a metal clown mask that I was in a beautiful world where I could tie Stephen Colbert and dolphins together logically without performing questionable genetics experiments.

Awesome ones though. Note to self: satirist/dolphin hybrids. Good idea or great idea?

Farmers Market and beach, also quite nice.

But enough of that. Residency.

Like in your fourth year of medical school, once you've decided on a specialty (or have matched into a specialty), you become intolerant of anyone distracting you with stuff that's unrelated to it. This is a problem during orientation because if you're not in primary care, you are going to spend a lot of time trying to surreptitiously check facebook while being taught the software for assigning prescriptions to the outpatient clinic, a skill I will need precisely never. Similarly, orientations involve a lot of stuff that is probably important in some broader scale, but the people at whom they are directed are not going to take them seriously either, so everyone just ends up pretending to pay attention. Examples? Drug abuse and sexual harassment. Is it important not to steal drugs from the anesthesia cart while asking your patient what she's got under her gown? Certainly. Is a talk going to deter someone? Probably not.

Our sexual harassment guy was pretty cool though. Not only did he focus on the bizarre problem of hair touching (WT-holy-F), but he referenced Sexual Harassment Panda. On the first thing, despite the answer of "When is it appropriate to touch a colleague's hair?" being "NEVER", I feel like my answer "When it's dangling into a patient" should have gotten at least half credit.

But let this all be a lesson to you people out there. Do not pet the hair of people you work with. Addendum, you're freaks.

July 1st was the official start date, so we got oriented to our actual departments so that was extremely exciting. We got our laptops (my Grenada laptop made it to the end! Against all frigging odds!!! Infected by viruses with *no* battery left and unable to close, it lived long enough to see me to a departmental laptop. Rest, sweet, computer. You have earned it.). We got books and a microscope. We have an interns' pen to ourselves that has about eight cubicles that are large and have a ton of desk space, and the common area has a fridge, microwave, two coffee pots, and a water cooler just for us. It is fantastic. I did sign out with an attending and resident in the morning, which reinforced how much I need to study (Mystery tissue. Fallopian tube. Mystery tissue. Mystery tissue. Thyroid. Mystery tissue. Fallopian tube. That can't be normal. And no, dorks, not struma ovarii). Different cases.).

Afternoon, I had frozen sections but the day before a holiday weekend is not generally a heavily hit surgery day so spent part of my time learning how to click around Windows 7 at my desk, and the rest of the time haunting the gross lab to see how things are done.

Here's a thing I realized about myself that I'm trying to fix. I feel like book-smart wise, I can handle it. If I don't know how tissues look, I can study them effectively. If I don't know how to gross a spleen, I'll ask someone and learn and do it well. I can learn diseases and be good at all that.

I am absolutely *useless* at the general functional stuff. I was that medical student that wandered wide-eyed around the hospital clutching a piece of paper that had been passed off to be by someone because I had no idea where to put it, who to give it to, or who to ask. I get lost in hallways. I have no idea what the chain of command is. These are things that take me from seeming smart to seeming completely infantile, and usually, it leads to someone yanking whatever I'm holding away after I've had it for two hours, going "Oh for goodness sake!" and then putting it in a file basket that was five feet from where I started and has a sign on it with red font that says "ISHIE, PUT PAPER HERE" and a clip art image of me slamming my head against a wall.

So my New Year's resolution, since for residents, the New Year is July 1st, is to observe the day-to-day function stuff carefully and deliberately early on, so that I may be less of an idiot later. We'll see how it goes.

In other news, I continue to hate confrontation passionately, because I like fulfilling the stereotypes of my specialty. I live in a for-real house now that features a side yard that has a gate to it from the sidewalk. Today, Roommate B and I heard a lot of rummaging we mistook for the mailman that turned out to be a guy that had helpfully let himself through the gate into our side yard and was scavenging the trash because someone in our place just moved out, so he was collecting cds and perfume and such.

After several minutes of careful deliberation on how to handle someone trespassing and scattering garbage, and discounting such barbarous behavior as simply yelling "Hey jackass; get off our property" out the window, we decided that the most polite and ladylike way to handle the entire unpleasantness was to let Roommate C's Rottweiler out the back door.

In our defense, there was still another fence between the guy and the dog.

So let that be a lesson to you. Ms. Manners says, "Release the hounds."