Anatomy: my big mistake

I had a little giggle to myself while charting the notes of a patient with shoulder pain the other day. Specifically, I was thinking of this post of yore, and my belief that I could get by just knowing what anatomy looked like, and not necessarily its various descriptions and qualifiers.

Boy, was I wrong. (And young. And obstinate.)

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Image via dentalbuzz.shop

Back then I thought it was enough to know more or less where organs and muscles were, but not essential to know which arteries and veins accompanied it. (It almost scares me a little that I managed to find my way through med school in this fashion.)

Dear Past Me: This is why you should have paid more attention in anatomy lectures…

  1. When learning to do C-sections, keeping track of the various layers of the abdomen was the easiest way to keep track of my progress;
  2. It’s kind of useful to know which structures to avoid when slicing through someone’s skin;
  3. Knee pain, shoulder pain, any joint pain;
  4. You save time if you don’t “quickly” have to look up the name of a structure;
  5. You save time if you can describe something in two words rather than ten;
  6. Knowing anatomy helps you to put things back where they belong, like putting an abdomen that has been laparotomy-ed back together again;
  7. Strokes and spinal injuries;
  8. Interpreting imaging studies;
  9. Describing what you see to another healthcare worker on the phone;
  10. Not sounding ridiculous when referring a patient to another clinician;
  11. And it sometimes even keeps imposter syndrome at bay.

Nowadays, anatomy is actually the one thing I use most to explain things to my patients. Not everybody can or wants to understand science, but everybody has a body, and so often my terrible anatomical sketches become the foundation of explaining their condition to a patient. And my own anatomical knowledge has grown in leaps and bounds, albeit a little later than it should have.

And if you’ve seen my Pinterest boards or – gasp – my tattoo, you’ll know that I quite like anatomy, these days.

Eh, the errors of our youth…

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Can I Be A Depressed Doctor?

Ever since I wrote about how going for therapy was my biggest gift to myself*, I’ve met with a few medical students to talk about the topic of mental health. Many of them were worried about their ability to make it through med school with their illness. Many were worried about the viability of a career in medicine with depression.

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When I was a student, there was a rumour that students with mental illness would be excluded from the course. We were informed by our senior students, and they by theirs, and thus the rumour was propagated. Continue reading “Can I Be A Depressed Doctor?”

Mental Health Begins With Medical Students

Every few months, the mental health of doctors/medical students makes it to popular media. It seems like these spikes in attention occur, and everyone shouts YOU SHOULD CARE FOR YOUR DOCTORS! and then we write blogs and we tweet and we make youtube videos and eventually we go back to work, and nothing has changed.

I think we are the missing link. And by “we”, I mean qualified doctors. And also, you, the older doctors. Continue reading “Mental Health Begins With Medical Students”

FAQ: Will I Get Into Med School?

Ever since I first posted tips for applying to medicine (in South Africa) in 2014, I have received multiple questions from aspirant medical students.

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The hardest to answer (and thus one of the most popular) is DO I STILL STAND A CHANCE? – usually prefaced with the person’s failure to achieve the desired grades for medical admission, or some other stumbling block. Continue reading “FAQ: Will I Get Into Med School?”

A Key To Disillusionment In Work And Play

disillusionment2The phenomenon of disillusionment is well-discussed in the world of medicine. Roundabout third year of medical school, students begin to realise that the medical world simply does not live up to what they envisioned.

It is easy to say, “Just don’t have such high expectations,” but in reality a doctor without vision becomes a mindless drone. Disillusionment is discussed so widely because even though by definition it seems simple, its origins and characteristics are complex.

Funnily enough, I began to really understand disillusionment when I started club-running. Don’t be mistaken: joining a club was the best decision I could have made. It introduced me to many like-minded people and provided ample opportunity to amp my mileage.

I joined a club because I felt that I loved running enough to do so, but not long after joining I started experiencing an emotion I recognised from the medical world. I was feeling disillusioned. Continue reading “A Key To Disillusionment In Work And Play”

[Guest Post] From Nursing to Medicine

While the best-known route to medical school in South Africa is the “conventional”: finish high school and enter med school the next January, it is by far not the only route followed by medical students here.

The journeys are numerous, like Tash’s journey of an older medical student, which she graciously shared here.

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Today, Roxanne shares her journey from nursing to medical school. Roxanne is a fourth year medical student at the University of Stellenbosch. We lived across from each other when she was a first year and I in my fifth. She impressed me from the beginning, with her humility, passion and eagerness to learn. This is her story: Continue reading “[Guest Post] From Nursing to Medicine”

Review: When Breath Becomes Air

“The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live.”

cover71692-mediumWhy do we do what we do – choose a career in science, in business, or in the arts? Why do we procreate, and why do we sometimes choose not to? Is it that we are avoiding the inevitability of life – death – or are we actively working to meet it with our highest expectations?

During his mid-thirties, Paul Kalanithi is faced with a life-changing cancer diagnosis.

He is a neurosurgery resident with a unique grasp on literature and the philosophy of mortality – which in part, contributed to his career choice.

So as a means of addressing his diagnosis, Kalanithi explores his journey towards becoming a neurosurgeon, and reflects deeply upon the sacrifices that were made in his endeavours. And he writes When Breath Becomes Air, a stunning memoir that can be widely read. Continue reading “Review: When Breath Becomes Air”

Another Song for Medical Student, Interns, and Basically Everyone

I heard this song for the first time as I was driving to my New Year’s Day call on Friday. Apparently I’m the only person in the whole world who hasn’t heard it, but WHATEVER okay.

I wept a little.

THIS is what I want to say to people. To the new interns who are hopefully going to realise this year that medicine was the right career for them; but who will certainly meet many challenges this year.

Medicine is hard and you’ll be expected to be super-human, never to have broken wings, never to feel like you can’t go on.

Remember that for every person who expects you to motor on without a wink of sleep,  without any debriefing after a difficult resuscitation, there is another who will lend you their wings when it’s hard.

Look for them. Look for us.

Find the people who will support you when your day or week or month is shitty.

And when your wings are working… please help someone who needs them.