The Student Physician

Nearly two and a half years, countless exams, memorization of facts and figures, pathologies, prescription drugs, and maneuvers that scare you to death -- and you think you might actually know "something" (but not everything). And then the first patient walks through the door and you realize nothing you could've possibly done thus far could have prepared you for what you're about to experience. Welcome to being a student physician.

Throughout my various collegiate undertakings, I've felt ignorant. There was never much of a point to thinking I knew everything or even all that much because I was constantly reminded that whatever bits and pieces I've pulled together meant only a drop in the bucket toward what's out there. I hate feeling ignorant. Maybe that's why I'm constantly reading and researching -- because I know that I don't know anything.

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Ricky in Radiology Positioning class
(Special thanks to Dave Aiello and Ricky King for this picture.)

Dr. Harrison, our clinician, brought up an excellent point last week (he has LOTS of amazing pearls of wisdom). He said that the stuff that we learn the best is the stuff that we're faced with. If there's a condition that we, a family member or friend, or a patient has, we WANT to learn about it. And so we learn those things the best. But when something is sitting right in front of you, there's this overwhelming need to know it -- right now. Sometimes that learning curve can be pretty frustrating.

Questions get asked. Tell me about your family. How are you feeling? What's going on in your life right now? Can you describe this or that sensation? As the physician, you're supposed to know, not only what it is they're talking about, but also how to put all of it together to make sense of what is in front of you. It's a complex task. Then you have to take the person in front of you, and figure out how to make them better, take away the pain they're having, help them cope with what's going on in their life, and help them re-enter their space of wellness. And of course, you hope that they're working with you on this. This takes skills they don't teach in school. We can take all of the interviewing skills sessions, basic and clinical sciences, and psychology classes and still not be able to put all of these "issues" into the complex Being that sits in front of us. So, as I sit here wearing my white coat, I can honestly tell you that nothing I've done over the last two and a half years prepared me for my first patient. Not a thing. Not even remotely. Of all the things I've learned, even over my whole life, listening seems to be the most beneficial.

One of my biggest fears when starting clinic, besides being worried I wouldn't know what to do, is that I would be stuck with pure musculoskeletal cases. I know, this is chiropractic and musculoskeletal would theoretically be a big part of most chiro's practice, but I wanted the hard cases. And I'm getting them. From complex vascular issues to hormone imbalances, I've had to do research in the first week on topics that we didn't learn in any of our classes. Before any physical exams, before any orthopedic testing, just doing the history, I'm learning so much. I love learning this way. Get a topic, find out as much as you can, and then apply it.

Pick up a copy of Harrison's Internal Medicine, and also a copy of the Textbook of Natural Medicine, and Textbook of Functional Medicine. All three of these will serve you very well. Even though these three are great resources, there are some things that still require digging. I love a challenge. Good thing I'm in the right field.

Have a great week everybody!