Reasons why I like science: there is a clear black and white of what’s wrong and right, the facts are absolute instead of relative and there is minimal contact with people.
Or so I thought until now.
More than halfway through medical school, I realized that the things I mentioned above are almost completely wrong. Yes, it’s true that there is a clear answer to what would be a correct response or an incorrect response. However, there are a lot of situations where these facts are applied differently. For example, in treating hypertension, one class of drugs you could use would be a beta-blocker. Say there is Drug A and Drug B, both are beta-blockers. One doctor might prefer drug A over drug B, while the other might prefer drug B. I guess this ‘preference’ is now limited with the various research being done, the so-called evidence based medicine where studies are done to figure out the efficacy of treatments. Even so, there are still a lot of variety in terms of management plans.
‘There is minimal contact with people”. This statement couldn’t be more wrong. If I were to divide a doctor’s day in activities, it would be 70% talking to people (patients and other health practitioners) and 30% paperwork (prescribing drugs, writing notes, etc). As you can see, communication is quite a big part there. I guess it would be less if you’re a surgeon as you’ll mostly be operating, but they still need to talk to their patients afterwards.
A lot of work has been done by the faculty to emphasize the importance of building rapport with patients, to empathize and treat them as people. Personally, I find this really challenging as being sociable and friendly is not my strong suit, you see. It takes me a while to connect with people and somehow it is hard to put myself in another person’s shoes. Doing it in the second language is just a tad bit harder.
Sometimes I’m not sure what to say because I simply don’t know how to react. Sometimes I’m silent because I don’t know how to say it in a proper way in English. Heck, I don’t think I would know how to do it in my first language anyway.
Another point would be on how most people in who got into medical school are those people who spend most of their days studying and less on socializing (which is where you would develop your social skills.) So the majority of us are not really big on socializing.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be following one of the consultants for a week. Watching her work made me realize what a good doctor is. With 30 years of experience, you would guess that she would have good working hours. Well, she doesn’t. It was quite a busy week and being an obstetrician she has to always be ready if someone were to deliver a baby. I’m at least 30 years younger than she is and I was tired after a day’s work, so I would guess that she would be more tired than I was. Amazingly, she is cheerful through out the week, always full of smile and oozing with vibes of friendliness (yes this is a thing now) towards both patients and nurses, and of course other doctors. And surprisingly, also to me, the insignificant medical student.
No matter how patient someone is, there are some things that would tick one off (a fact I have learned to come to term recently). So there was one instance where she was not in her best mood, but she didn’t let this interfere with how she interacts with the next patient. She switches back to her normal cheerful, friendly self within a minute. You would think this is how a professional should be, but no no no no, I’ve seen quite a few who let their emotions got the better of it. But that’s a story for another day.
Anyway, that is only one thing that I learned from her. Communication is vital in medicine. One reassuring comment, one smile, one supportive nod could mean a lot to patients and it could actually make them feel better without one giving drugs or doing stuff to them. LOL, stuff, a very academic choice of word.
Other skill that I learned is keeping up to date with new discoveries. Medicine is an ever-changing world, there’s always something new waiting to be discovered, made and it will change how one would practice it. I used to think this was blah, too bad it’s true. A lot of things have changed since, say 10 years ago, and it is essential to keep up with new research. Yes, I shall end this post with a note to self that I don’t have a choice but to never stop studying until the day I die………
Ha. Quite morbid, hey.
I was just kidding. The point is: GOTTA POLISH MY COMMUNICATION SKILLZ. It’s gonna be hard work, but practice makes perfect so that one day I could be a good doctor.