Monthly Archives: July 2014

Out of Practice

All I can say about the past week is that MS1 year spoiled me. It made me soft. I am slightly embarrassed to admit this, but after spending a year attending classes, sitting at my comfortable desk, studying when I felt up to it, napping when I felt up to that too, I forgot what it’s like to work a full 9-10 hour day. I have not been this exhausted in years.

I have spent the last week as a full-time instructor for a Summer Surgery Program for high school students. The days are long. I wake up at 5:45 am and spend the majority of my day on my feet or speaking with students. The program is really fantastic, not just for the students, but also for me since we spend 4 hours each day observing surgeries in the OR. In the afternoon we have didactics for the students–as an instructor I’ve taught things like the history of surgery, anesthesia/pre-operative care and heart and lung anatomy.

The enthusiasm I see in these kids is really inspiring. Today I showed them an aortic aneurysm repair surgery and they were mesmerized, thrilled, practically jumping up and down after we walked out of the OR. It was wonderful to see that sparkle of ambition in their eyes. A future dream in the making. They reminded me of how excited I’ve been this year with each new milestone.

My day doesn’t end when theirs does. I am also working on an independent research project in the Emergency Department and since my IRB just got approved last week, I’ve been heading over there for 3-4 hours in the evening to get things off the ground. By the time the last student has been picked up by their parents I feel like I just want to melt into my couch and not get up until the next day–somehow I find the energy to wander into the ED instead.

The funny thing is, as soon as I am in there I forget all about how sore my feet are and how physically drained I am. In the past two weeks I’ve had some amazing experiences. On multiple occasions I have been mistaken for an MS4 after someone overheard my presentation to the attending, which is pretty much the best compliment you can get as a med student. I am definitely starting to feel pretty comfortable in interviewing patients and doing physical exams–but before I get too proud of myself, I should mention they only throw me the softball patients, as in, simple cases of stomach pain or kidney stones. Either way, I am learning a crazy amount and working my ass off.

Although my level of exhaustion this week was off the scale, one night I literally fell asleep with a fork in my hand on my couch (eek!), it’s been rewarding and one of the best weeks of the summer. Here’s to another 3 weeks of early mornings!

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Bringing Someone Back and Other Adventures

I have likely taken a CPR course three or four times in my life. As a teenager, I spent my summers sporting a perpetual tan while working as a community pool lifeguard. For those of you who find community pools a foreign concept (in California it seems almost everyone has a pool in their backyard), I am from the East Coast, where summer means spending your days lazily hanging out at your neighborhood pool. Every day brought with it your regular “pool rats”, or the kids who came to the pool rain or shine and didn’t leave until it was time to close. Although I made a record six “saves” my first summer on the job– in three years I luckily never had to perform CPR on anyone. My biggest lifesaving story was having to call 911 for a guy who scraped most of the skin off his shins while attempting to go off the diving board backwards–he inevitably got too close to the board, which left him bleeding all over my pool. During our first week of medical school I was required to pass the Basic Lifesaving (BLS) course yet again. This time, the prospect of using those skills became much more real. While on an overnight shift, I recently got my first chance to bring someone back.


When it rains, it pours. The Emergency Department was buzzing with energy as we had multiple¬†critical traumas arriving within minutes of one another. I hung my white coat safely in the hallway (see my old post on how this lesson was learned) and gowned up ready for what was coming through the doors. Our patient’s heart had stopped. Knowing what was coming, I spoke up–can I do it? The next thing I know, I was standing on a foot stool. Given my short, petite frame of 5’3, I needed the additional footing to reach over the patient’s body to begin my compressions. It was strangely easier than those CPR dummies make it seem. “Fast and powerful, full recoil,” I thought to myself as flashbacks of my CPR course raced through my head. 60 seconds had not gone by before my body was covered in sweat. The trauma gowns, which work wonders in keeping your scrubs blood free, also make any physical exertion akin to exercising in a plastic trash bag. Sweat was starting to run down my face, fogging up my glasses. Two minutes seemed like twenty. Pulse check. It’s back! A strong heart beat returned. I stood back unable to mask my excitement. It was a tremendous feeling. The rest of the night was filled with less adrenaline and sweat, yet with just as much excitement. I checked off more milestones in my training. IV placements with no bloody mess. Pelvic exams. Perfecting my history taking and physical exams. I walked out of the hospital that morning just as the sun was rising. A new day.

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