Studying Medicine

The Aftermath of Clinicals

For four weeks, my friends and I woke up at unearthly hours and worked, scutmonkeys, throughout the day – and often the nights.

In obstetrics we had 24-hour-calls. We learnt soon just how unglamorous birth could be. We dealt with patients who came in drunk or hungover, patients who expected their baby to simply pop out with no effort, patients who were often rude, or those who seemed to have no comprehension of any language.

When the pain and the heat became unbearable they would strip down, and we were caught between nurses ordering that the patients MUST wear their gowns, and the women who simply refused.

Birth was messy. Somehow the fact that one was wearing gloves just didn’t make the fact that you had faeces, urine, meconium and amniotic fluid all over your hands any better. Now you did not only have to protect your patient’s tracts from external insults, but also from her own potential sources of infection.

We returned to campus after sunrise, stopped droopy-eyed at McDonalds, and laughed at the events of the night, reminisced about the good; about the adorable babies.

[Funny story: In second year, McDonalds was what you ate the night before a big test, in the hopes that you could stay up a little longer. In third year, McDonalds is what you eat after call, and no matter the time of the day, you call it: Supper. Because you are about to go to bed.]

Everything tastes like amniotic fluid and smells of placenta after a call, by the way.

Those were a tough four weeks.

But they were amazing. And now we are back in class and I get to sleep until 07:00, and go back to bed whenever I want.

Psychiatry. Which should interest me immensely. But it’s theory.

Obstetrics had theory. After the long day, you would read up in your textbook; maybe about hypertensive disorders of pregnancy if you had a patient with pre-eclampsia. But that’s not the same as sitting in class.

This week, I have attended very few lectures. Which is BAD, because I promised I would be a better student this year. Did you know that untreated major depression literally causes the grey matter of your brain to shrink? We learnt how to classify suicide risks. And all the cool effects of chemicals in your brain, and why they can cause trouble if they go rogue.

But for four amazing weeks, I never once wondered if I was studying the right course. I just knew.

So theory is just not the same.

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