Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Hardest to Wipe Away

One of the loveliest ladies on my ward held onto my hand yesterday as our consultant talked to her about if she wanted all the stops to be pulled out if anything should happen or if she wanted to have a DNR order signed. I couldn’t do anything but let her think and talk and stroke my hand.

Afterwards, all I wanted to do was sit down in the middle of the ward and cry out all my tears.

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Posted by on October 30, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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Hurry Up and Wait

In general, being a medical student has a lot to do with standing around, waiting for someone to turn up or something to happen. It’s nothing to do with clinical knowledge and everything to do with having a good pair of shoes. I’ve been fairly lucky so far this year in that I’ve not had to do much standing on a ward like a spare part. I avoided it in my last hospital mostly by being willing to write blood forms, chase blood results, and do as many venflons and ABGs as needed doing.

I had a few grumpy days at the end of last week. I had very little to do, even after asking for jobs, and the days seemed to be passing very slowly and I couldn’t wait to get back to Glasgow. I knew that I had two days left on that ward at the beginning of this week, and I was honestly kind of dreading it.

The corollary to what I said at the beginning is that there’s no such thing as a steady stream of work — it’s either standing around looking useless or being completely snowed under. So, cue Monday, when I learned that the reason I’d not seen anything of my consultant last week was because he was out of the country and that he was determined to make up for having been away for three of my five days on cardiology. We began our week with a seven hour ward round (SEVEN HOURS!), and on Tuesday he asked me to go to day surgery and then to his outpatient clinic. I’ve learned more cardiology in the last two days than I did in the three years before that. I’ve spent the last two nights writing up a portfolio case that was due today and eventually finished at one o’clock this morning. The only way to get out of the hospital at that time of night is through A&E, and I must have looked quite a state as I bobbed and weaved my way through the department.

I much prefer being busy, and if I were given the option would always choose snowed under rather than standing around. Very little gets me down more than a slowly ticking clock — even in my now thankfully ex-job as a public transport information giving person I was always much happier on days when there were strikes or floods or timetable changes or Christmas and the phone never stopped ringing. I’ve been back to being my normal happy self since Monday.

However, my portfolio case is finished and assessed, as of an hour ago, and I’ve got no more deadlines for a few days, so I’ve planned an evening off. Truthfully, I’ve been planning it in my head since I got up yesterday morning and I’m looking forward to my night of tea and toast and crap telly so much that it almost borders on the pathetic, but sometimes it’s the little things.

Now playing: Antonin Dvorak – Symphony No.9 in E Minor

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Posted by on October 27, 2010 in Blog, Medicine



Prayer for Medical Students

Today is October 18th. It is the date in the Christian calendar on which we celebrate St Luke, patron saint of doctors and surgeons.


Father, you have called us to be your servants and we have said yes.

God of great joy, we find you in all the thousands of moments that make our lives joyful.
In the times of happiness, your Son celebrated and was glad.
Remind us to find joy in our lives and our work, and that to do what we do is a privilege that should never be taken for granted.
And rejoice with us in triumph — in the laughing and hugging of each hard-fought victory.
For you are in the singing and the dancing, and our gladness burns with the fire of your Holy Spirit.

God of love, we ask for blessings on our loved ones.
As he did the things that he had been sent to do, your Son knew the support of his family and friends.
We offer thanksgiving for the people who support us on this path that we have chosen,
and for those who walk it with us.
For through them and through you, we know that we are loved and we are blessed.

God of the lonely, we turn to you to know that we are not alone.
In that most awful hour, all his friends had gone away and your Son cried out to you.
Help us to recognise the warmth of your presence,
especially in the times and places when we feel that there is nobody else.
For you are the one who understands when no one else can.

God of the waiting, wait with us.
In the darkness, your Son waited for what was to come.
Be near us as we keep watch over the people who need you more than we do,
as they wait for life, for death, for hope, for despair.
For with you, we wait for the promise of a new dawn.

God of humanity, we pray for our own humanity.
You sent your Son to live among us so that we might truly know what it means to be human.
Grant us the understanding to see the sorrow that lurks beneath thoughtnessness, the fear hidden by indifference, and the despair that is expressed as anger,
and give us the grace and compassion to see people, not diagnoses.
For if we look, we will find the very best of you in all humans everywhere.

God of our many understandings, we look for you not in cold churches and empty tombs,
but in hospitals and hospices, ambulances and emergency departments, wards and operating theatres.
And in these places, you come to be our strength and our salvation.



Posted by on October 18, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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The Storytellers

Last week, I had dinner with a group of acute care physicians.

We are all storytellers. I tell the funny stories, the moving stories, the profound stories, and the ordinary stories. Sometimes, I tell stories that have been told to me by other people. I’m a blogger because there are stories I want to tell. I think we all do it, we all have a wee stash of good stories that we like telling and that we know get a good reaction from our audience. Of course, there are some that always get a good reaction no matter how they’re told or who they’re told to — I have a friend who likes to tell people about when he met the Queen and started talking about tampons — but, more often, stories are better when they’re told to people who have had common experiences. This is why you put seventeen Anglicans in a room and aren’t surprised when they start telling stories about funny things that have happened at funerals.

It’s no different with medics. If we end up around a table together, we will pull out all our best bits. We share stories about ridiculous things that have been done in the name of infection control (getting intercepted on your way out of theatre by an HEI inspector who wants to know when you last did handwashing training), least likely investigation results (a troponin level of 3.28 on a man who hadn’t thought himself unwell enough to come to A&E), most surprising greetings from patients (“um, can I have a cup of tea, please, doctor?” shouted from the room of a woman who had been GCS 3 every time we’d checked for the last week), and craziest experiences with patient transport (calling in a helicopter from the Ministry of Defence during the volcanic ash cloud). The fact that these are our best bits may explain why we make awkward dinner party guests.

In the middle of dessert, the conversation turned to funny stories about life support training.

I was the only person at the table who wasn’t an ALS trainer, so that was fairly predictable.

The only good story I have about life support training comes from my most recent OSCE. It all started well enough. I got the sticky pads attached and the monitor switched on, and I had identified VT and debfibrillated properly. I’d done all the things that we’re supposed to learn how to do in third year life support skills. The last part of the assessment is to demonstrate that you’ve not forgotten how to do all the rest of it. I tried to dash around to the other side so that I could take over from my “assistant”. I tripped over the Ambubag cable and took a nosedive onto the mannekin and expressed myself using words that my grandmother doesn’t know that I know. So, when third year OSCEs were mentioned, off I went into this story.

And you can meet someone and spend the entire day with them and know that there’s something familiar about them, something that’s tugging at the corners of your memory, something that you just can’t quite place…

I came to the end of my story and there was laughter, and the consultant who was sitting next to me put down his fork and said, “Oh, gosh. I remember that! I was your examiner!”

Now playing: Barry Manilow – Somewhere Down the Road

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Posted by on October 14, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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On The Move

I can’t believe it’s October, but time does indeed fly when you’re having fun.

My first real rotation has come to an end, and my next rotation starts at 9am on Tuesday.

In Glasgow, our fourth and fifth year rotations are punctuated by a weekend and an academic day. I’m going from a peripheral hospital with a killer commute to a peripheral hospital that I can’t commute to and I’m almost stupidly grateful for the extra day in the city to sort out my life, but 72 hours is still not a big amount of time. I have classes in the morning. In addition to the academic part of my academic day, I need to go to the university in order to beg a copy of my vaccinations record from them and to convince them that I didn’t fail my last rotation (which I really didn’t, but there seems to have been some kind of IT error…), and all of that is before going home to pack and get myself onto a train to the Borders by late afternoon. I’d planned to do tuition fees and visit the bank tomorrow, too, but I’m beginning to think that that will more realistically get done by phone and email and the Royal Mail.

Now playing: Lauridsen – O Magnum Mysterium
via FoxyTunes

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Posted by on October 3, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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