You're not behind the desk, you're sitting in the chair next to
it. Waiting. Waiting, for what seems like FOREVER for them to come
look at you, examine you, swab, cut, bleed, sample, whatever you.
They're taking forever. You feel wretched. Everything aches,
stings, hurts. You're tired from staying up all night worrying,
hurting, stressing. You only want to know what's going on and you
feel like you're simply the only person on the face of the planet,
and no one is able or willing to help you.
I'm trying to explain what it feels like to be sick -- to be
frustrated with the status of the medical profession and confused
and angry and scared. I'm trying to explain what it feels like, no
matter how melodramatic it may be, to feel like someone else has
control over your health, what's wrong, and if and when you'll get
better. There's a feeling of being completely helpless that comes
with being sick -- when there's pain, when there's no observable
pattern or relatively easy diagnosis, or when it just seems to drag
on forever. It's a feeling that no one seems to understand -- like
being held hostage by something or someone and being powerless to
do anything about it. And it doesn't go away -- that feeling --
until there's some grasp over the problem, like some answer, lab
result, diagnosis, something, ANYTHING that seems to give some
control over the situation.
If you, as a person, have never felt this way, count yourself
lucky. But many others can't say that. Our patients likely can't
say that. They come to us hoping for understanding and compassion,
and the willingness and ability to find out what's wrong. I only
hope that they find it.
It's hard to be the patient when you're used to being the
physician. It's also hard to be a physician when you've never been
a patient. William Hurt, in a 1991 movie called "The Doctor"
illustrated just this. Having been an important, influential
physician, he finds himself with cancer -- and realizes just how
horrible of a physician (no matter how skilled) he (and some of his
colleagues) could be.
People come to us in their worst conditions. They're not always
in a good mood. They're not always understanding of our limitations
as physicians (or students). They come to us seeking help and
advice -- and of course, our expertise. Finding answers is what
we're supposed to do. It's what our training is based in and what
we've been working towards for our academic/professional
But all of that training only provides a fraction of what our
patients need from us. They need our compassion and understanding.
This isn't taught in school. It comes from within, and
unfortunately, it comes from experience.
(Image source: hopeinhealingblog.wordpress.com)
For some of us, it's been sickness that has made us this way --
or abuse, or poverty, or just LIFE. For others, it's those things
that are in the process of making them that way.
Be kind to each other this week, Everybody. Have a great
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.
Ricky in Radiology Positioning class
(Special thanks to Dave Aiello and Ricky King for this
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!
• After the DC Degree
• Botanical Medicine
• 1 Year at National
• Marketing Project
• First Week in Student Clinic
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