Of oranges and IV-lines

The medical sciences are obsessed with hierarchies. Fresh-out-of-school doctors perform rectal exams and enemas till it pours, well, out of every orifice (if you’ll excuse the crude pun). Nurses where epaulettes which all are supposed magically to understand, and don’t you DARE call a medical professor a “doctor”.

There are some things that distinguish a medical student from a doctor – like a degree, for example.

There are those things that distinguish medical students from each other – certain manifestations of psychiatric disturbances as a result of different levels of traumatic experiences.

And then there are the things which – embarrassingly – distinguish “us” from the nurses (and even their students): the ability to perform certain clinical skills (they can, very many of us can’t).

Medical Hierarchy

Note: the cartoon above is from http://theunderweardrawer.blogspot.com/, a blog by Michelle Au, M.D. – an amazing cartoonist/artist and a really cool writer too. She’s an anaesthesiologist now, if I understand correctly. You should take a look at her work.

Today was my class’s first day of “real” clinical rotations – but before we get to do that, there are some skills we must acquire so as to be well-trained scut monkeys in hospital.

On the agenda: Injections (intramuscular and subcutaneous), where we practised not only on dummies with skin thicker than the most hardened desert nomad – which actually bent our needles – but also on oranges. Better hope they incinerate those oranges along with the medical waste before some poor hungry kid thinks it’s his lucky day.

Sutures – cool but initially quite difficult. We learnt how to do the normal interrupted sutures (suture, tie, cut) and continuous ones (suture, tie, suture-suture-suture-suture-suture-tie) and then a funky figure-of-eight kind of thing which I definitely still need to practise.

As for drawing blood and IV-lines… they are interesting and not too difficult, but I found myself nervous around the fake blood, praying that I would never become blasé about potential needle prick injuries.

I start on Obstetrics – yay me! But our first few days are mainly in the clinical skills lab.

Makes sense, if you think about it. If I were a woman in labour and some wise-ass student decided that he/she needed to practise groping around a dilated cervix, I would sure as hell want them to have practised on a dummy first.

And I suppose I will feel more secure catching a real live squirmy and slippery baby once I’ve caught I freshly-squeezed-from-a-plastic-pelvis doll.

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