Aug 3, 2011

With Apologies to T.S. Eliot

But August is the cruelest month.

July was a training month for us, which means we literally were never without a handler, which is comforting, and in those sorts of situations, you always *feel* like you're learning everything. This is especially true when people are letting you do things, so you feel like you're in charge, but you always have them over your shoulders, often helpfully making suggestions.

I did have one fourth year that made me run a couple frozens by myself, which in itself was a little panic inducing, but still, the fact was I knew that he was there, and the very nature of the whole thing made it so that I knew if things went really wrong or if it were too complicate a specimen, he would rescue me.

July is also when I heard a lot of "I'm gonna be here for a while, so why don't you run on home?" which makes you hear the "go home" and not the "I'm gonna be here for a while".

August, we're let loose on our own. Today was my first grossing day, which is seriously intimidating.

I think I explained this elsewhere but pathology schedule is gross (cut stuff), preview (guess stuff) and sign out (be pwned on stuff).

Grossing seems like simply the grossEST as it's the opportunity to smell like unspeakable evil, splash formalin on yourself and such, but doesn't seem like the hardest. The real difficulty comes in interpreting what you see. The problem being, grossing badly brings down the whole house. If you cut poorly, the slides come out poorly, and the most skilled diagnostician on the planet cannot figure out margins that you haven't inked, false margins you have inked, or specimens that are mangled and only consist of blood clot. This failure not only potentially gets you in trouble with your seniors, but more critically, can directly screw up a patient's care. I can potentially apologize to my higher ups all day long, and they can think "Hey, she's a noob", but some patient could potentially wind up minus a diagnosis or with an additional surgery or whatever because I can't cut and paste.

So no pressure. Being faced with an increasing load of specimens and staring at something relatively simple like a skin lesion, I felt a pretty piercing hint of anxiety. For complex specimens, you page an attending or fellow (which I'm trying to get used to, since medical school taught me to NEVER DO THIS, and pathology residency teaches you to ALWAYS DO THIS. It is always easier to have a pro orient a specimen than have a pro un-fuck one). This leads to someone hand holding you, but under mounting pressure, you do things like "dictate while someone is telling you what to dictate and still forget what they said 30 seconds ago because there's a microphone in front of you".

Gods. In the end, I still feel incredibly lucky. This was probably my worst day of residency so far and the most "not fun" one, and it was still punctuated by not once getting yelled at, having three of my colleagues stop by at different after-hours times to offer help, and having two attendings come by after hours, one to do a complex specimen *for me* and the the other to take the load off, which included him staying three hours after leaving time and dictating half my remaining case loads so that I could leave at a semi-reasonable hour.

I have a less intensive residency than most and definitely a less malignant residency than most. I'm not sure how I would manage if either of those features were not present. But it does make me feel good that at the end of the day, my "bad" day consists of learning opportunities and people helping me. Tomorrow, I find out if my grosses were okay, and I'm really hoping that they were.

Night everyone


heyroth said...

Cheer up buttercup. I'm sure they know what you're going through and thus helping you out.

10 bucks says the grosses are ok.

thuc huynh, md said...

thats an interesting difference : get help first, dont wait till you mess up. it makes total sense. love hearing about your experience, its so different from what im used to!