A Glimpse Into Medicine
By: Mint Suetrong, Contributing Writer
This is a diary-esque reflection, if you will, on my internship experience at a local hospital. As the title says, this is merely a glimpse. A glimpse of a glimpse, even.
Monday, August 10th, 2020
I was over-the-moon excited for this day to come. And I mean the so-excited-that-you-can’t-fall-asleep and woke-up-at-4-because-you-are-so-excited level of being excited. I think I got a total of 3 whole hours of sleep that night if I’m generous. I mean, that’s preparation for the future, am I right?
Anyway, we had to get to the hospital by 8, but my mom and I left the house around 6.30, so we could get to my Aunt’s house around 7. I am interning at a hospital she works at, so we thought it was best to go to work with her. Just in case you haven’t figured it out, I have zero sense of direction.
In the car, my aunt gave me a quick briefing on today’s schedule: helping out at the Pediatric OPD in the morning and a tour of the hospital in the afternoon. OPD stands for the Out-Patient Department, meaning patients that are here for check-ups rather than being admitted into the hospital- staying overnight.
My first day at the OPD was a blast, to say the least. Measuring children’s vital signs is way more complicated than how the nurses make it seem to be. Who knew kids were so slippery! I was blown away by how elegant, and swift the nurses were, moving from one after to the other with little kids running around. Nurses deserve so much more appreciation for the work that they do.
That day, I learned the importance of the division of labor. Two nurses were stationed in front of the department room, continually checking in patients and measuring their vital signs. Another group of nurses was stationed inside of the room, bringing patients to their respective checkup rooms. The last was stationed in the computer area, printing name tags of the patients and keying in the appointments into the system. On the first day, I was mainly the runner, delivering the stickered check-up books, but I helped measure the patient’s vital signs as well. Seeing such a level of efficiency was quite mind-blowing. Patients were rarely backed up, and there was always a continuous flow in and out of the department. Nurses are the real superheroes. Thank you for taking care of us!
Last but not least, I am happy to report that the majority of children like me. Or at least they are not scared of hospital appointments. Both of which are great either way.
Tuesday, August 11th, 2020
Well, they did like me. That was before we got the vaccines out.
Today broke my heart. I haven’t told anyone in a while, but I had a quite traumatizing memory getting vaccinated as a kid. By kid, I mean that it happened when I was no older than five. I don’t even know how I still remember it. Looking at this memory now, it seems incredibly irrational for this to have happened in the first place, so please do not quote me on this. I remember being held down to a bed. I remember feeling like I could not breathe, but I think that was from me balling my eyes out. Was I a silly kid? Yes, but I was a rather sensible one as well, meaning that I would know to hold still while getting a vaccination. Anyway, I have gotten used to getting vaccines now. I just can’t look at it.
Nevertheless, today broke my heart. I was stationed at the vaccination station, a small room disconnected from the main OPD itself. I knew this day would come and half-dreaded it, scared to death that I would put another person in the same traumatizing experience that I had once gone through. With my trusty Kumamon permanently attached to my lanyard, thank you Aimee, I prayed that it would provide at least some comfort to these kids.
Miraculously, it worked. There were minimal tears, and even some laughs along the way. I remembered to give them all stickers because they wholeheartedly deserve them.
Today, I learned the importance of communication. Compared to the OPD, there was less flow of patients. First-time parents were unsure of where to get the vaccinations or what to bring into the room, which led to some minor complications. I think a simple poster stuck in front of the room would help immensely. Alongside communicating with parents of the patient, there were definitely socially-inappropriate comments (NO, THE KIDS WERE NOT SEXUALISED) being thrown around which made me uncomfortable. For example, a little four(4) year old boy was told by an adult that if he was ‘strong’, he wouldn’t cry. If you have ever questioned where toxic masculinity begins, here is your answer. On another occasion, a five(5) year old girl was asked by her very own father why her skin colour was so dark. I looked directly into the little girl’s eye and told her that she was beautiful. My blood boiled. Funny how we question why our society is still racist.
Wednesday, August 12th, 2020
Today was Mother’s Day so I got to stay home and shower my mom with lots of hugs and kisses. If you are reading this, go hug and thank someone that has cared for you. Tell them you love them when they are still here.
Thursday, August 13th, 2020
Today was overwhelming if I had to be honest. It was a rough morning. The silence was choking and the air was tangible. A child abuse patient was admitted into the hospital the previous night. It was a very difficult sight to see.
This day was definitely the most emotional day of this internship. I felt like someone had punched me straight in my gut. Repeatedly. I got to experience my first slice of trauma. This day was most likely the closest representation of how my life would be when I become a doctor one day and it was not easy. If I had to describe this day in one word, it would be ‘raw’. Or ‘real’. Or both, actually.
Today, I learned the importance of acceptance; you cannot save everyone. I will have to learn that. Some day. One day.
Friday, August 14th, 2020
My family and I went on a little post Mother’s Day trip so I resumed my internship the following Monday.
I wanted to use today’s log to reflect on two of my favorite memories from the internship, the first being the PICU night shift nurses updating the following shift of nurses on the patient’s performance the previous night. The level of organization and professionalism that was involved in that process was surely a sight to see. The routine manner of the report and how efficiently the Head Nurse navigated the patient’s folder definitely put my school backpack to shame.
My next favorite memory from the internship was shadowing staff on her morning round with the externs. I was like a kid in the candy shop, but with less bouncing, of course. Nevertheless, my eyes were practically glowing the whole time. The staff was the sweetest: she answered all of my questions- and let me tell you, there were many- with unmatched patience and even taught me how to read an x-ray scan! What I loved most from today was seeing how the staff interacted with the externs. She encouraged the externs to be confident, take leadership and questioned their findings. If I had to put myself in the externs’ shoes, there is no doubt that having questions bombarded at you, one after the other, at 7 in the morning would be overwhelming. However, it would also be exhilarating, and I am looking forward to that.
Monday, August 17th, 2020
Today was my last day of the internship. It blew me away how fast it all came to an end and yet I had learned so much. This experience gave me a lot to think about. There were definitely things that made me appreciate this profession so much more, but it also made me question my future. Would I be able to handle the disappointment of letting a patient down? Would I blame myself for a patient’s death when if realistically speaking, the chance of survival was low? What would happen if I had a panic attack while treating a patient?
With that being said, this experience has definitely motivated me in ways that I had never imagined. Seeing the senior staff interact with the students, letting me kindly view blood smear slides, and explaining everything that piqued my interest throughout the whole internship had definitely warmed my heart. Seeing how much the nurses pour their hearts out for each patient touched me in a way that cannot be described with words.
Last but not least, seeing the extern students day after day, putting in the utmost effort to improve themselves, definitely motivated me to do the same as well.
I got to see both the best and the worst of humanity; the two’s interaction was painfully beautiful.
And patience. Patience is crucial to being a doctor.
Finally, I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude towards all of the staff that took care of me during my internship. Although it was a short experience, they made it a very memorable one. This experience is unlike anything that I have ever gone through before in my life, and it was beautiful. Just beautiful. Words cannot describe how excited I am to put on a gown of my very own one day. Just you wait.