When it comes to being a First Year in the hospital, working among real patients, with real chief complaints and life and death situations, there are a few rules of thumb I am quickly learning will go a long way in helping me survive and not look like a complete neophyte in the process.
Rule #1: If you see all the medical staff doing the same thing to prepare for an incoming patient, chances are, you should take note and do it too.
Case in point: I was spending some time as a student in the Emergency Department when an incoming critical trauma was announced. The trauma room soon filled with all kinds of staff who gowned up like they were about to go into a radioactive zone- gloves, booties, gowns and face masks. I figured I would probably just hang back in the corner and observe so there was little reason for me to do the same. That was my first wrong assumption. Within a few minutes of the patient entering the room I was called in to help. Did I just hear that right? They want me, an insignificant 1st year near the bedside? I jumped at the opportunity. Of course, in my zest to be part of the team I completely forgot to take off my brand-new, sparkly white coat and gowned up haphazardly tying my gown on top of my coat. I didn’t even take the time to securely tie my face-mask.
Rule #2: Never wear a white coat in a critical trauma.
Rule #3: Take the time to tie your gown and face-mask.
Perfect, I have already broken my first three rules, not a great start. I won’t go into too many details, but the case involved significant amounts of blood. After I knew the patient was well taken care of, all I could think of was that I would take off my bloody gown and find my white coat a scarlet red. Where do you even get a new student issued white coat? How would I explain this?
Lucky for me, the trauma gowns actually do their job and my white coat was spared. Of course, I’ll never risk it again. I did learn a great lesson: as a student in the hospital, each day will be filled with teachable moments and you have to be prepared for them. Being called in to assist the trauma team felt exhilarating. Even just my small task was enough to make me smile the rest of the day. Sometimes teachable moments come because we ask for them, but often, they are unannounced and you have to be ready to jump in and learn. Just remember to protect the white coat.