I had a patient earlier this week. She'd been visited by her French sister every day on the dot. 2 o'clock in the afternoon and they'd be jabbering French - back and forth. I'd walk in to the room, and sister would say, "Ah! La Petite is here. Let me go take a break in the solarium and let the two of you talk." So we'd exchange smiles and she'd sweetly let me and the patient converse over the day's issues. She called me la Petite - presumably for my size - but unknowingly more appropriately for the level of my self-awareness as an experienced 'doctor.'
I was la Petite. But, mostly in my mind, 'la-she's-got-a-lot-to-learn.'
The very next day, I adopted a new patient and his wife. She'd assumed me to be a nurse when she stated they couldn't leave yet because the doctors hadn't stopped by. : ) I smiled inside, then made a sure re-introduction. I had been the one to stop by - various times throughout the day. I had taken the patient through many steps (diagnostic and therapeutic) for that day's events. I humbly re-introduced myself as ... yes, only the medical student ... but as the one who was entrusted with their case and who had diligently run through every item line with my superiors (resident and attending physician). There was nothing left to be done before she and her husband could go home. She looked very pleased and stretched out her hand to shake mine. I further re-assured her that I'd be happy to answer any final questions if I could. Without having any to mention, she thanked me and was happy to leave for home.
Today, I cherish those stories - as I face a much more difficult patient case. Difficult in the sense of "my first one." And "I've never done this before." And "okay, now or never." When it comes to learning, there is little better than having a good teaching mentor. When such is lacking (as is not the case on this one), the next best thing is books. Currently, I am surrounded by every book that I could fit in to my suitcase while packing for this rotation -- and each book is currently open, on the table in front of me. About to delve in to the world of low blood counts and oncology galore, this is day #2 on the Heme/Onc service and I am gladly feeling happy to be a student ... given the luxury of time to learn.
I'll have to go in to work tomorrow with some better semblance of what is going on with my patient.
Medicine is exciting and challenging to me - for the simple fact that I highly doubt, no matter how far I get in to this profession, that there will always be cases that will baffle my mind. So, this patient will be occupying my thoughts every hour that I am home resting, until the very hour that I re-enter the hospital to tackle another day.
Whether speaking French or speaking medicine - sometimes they both sound like a foreign language.