Train your trainees

I’ve been spending a lot of time in labour ward anaesthesia this past month. It’s great, because I get all the gratification of the caesarian sections (I remember it well from internship), without having to wade through blood and amniotic fluid and human excreta myself.

This tweet in part inspired this post.

Another thing I remember well, is the tension in theatre when the intern is cutting. I had such difficulty getting my ten caesarian sections for our logbook signed off, because so few seniors were willing to let an intern cut. It’s not only the obstetrician – often, it’s the theatre nursing staff. To be fair, nobody likes to be scrubbed in for a routine caesarean that lasts ninety minutes. Other times, it’s the anaesthetists. Because nobody likes to worry that their spinal anaesthetic might wear off before the surgery is over.

I have had a taste of the same with my new position, too. Not having done anaesthesia in four years, there is a lot I have had to relearn. My “teachers” have been great, and I seem finally to be finding my feet, but there have often been grumblings from surgical teams when I was slow. As an intern, I might have minimised myself and declined to perform the procedure. But now, I need to learn, and quickly. So I have been pushing back harder (when not to the patient’s detriment) – and to my new colleagues’ credit, they have supported me.

Check the replies on this tweet – they made me feel so much better.

Having experienced this, I will always be the annoying medical officer who encourages the intern/student/newbie to perform procedures. Not because I think I’m so wonderful, but because I want trainees to feel as nurtured as I have felt these past few months, and not as burdensome as I sometimes did as a student and an intern.

Sometimes, I think clinicians forget that they were inexperienced and under-qualified juniors once, too. There is nothing admirable about learning to place an intercostal drain on YouTube, without senior supervision, as many of us like to brag. That is a sign of a failing system. We should be taught and guided by others with experience. We deserve that. Our patients deserve that.

I also know that it is a system that fails not only interns. I know that demoralised doctors have little interest in training juniors. (But that is a discussion for another day.)

Interns who are not competent become dangerous medical officers, wherever they may go for ComServe. They have both the right and the responsibility to be trained. We have the responsibility to ensure that they attain their very best, even if they are afraid while doing so. We do it to pay forward the teaching we have received. Or if we were not so fortunate, we do it to improve where others failed us.

Train your trainees. It kind of goes without saying.

Read This Book: In Shock by Rana Awdish

“If empathy is the ability to take the perspective of another and feel with them, then, at its best, the practice of medicine is a focused, scientific form of empathy.”

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For the past few days I’ve been devouring In Shock in every spare moment I could find. In her narrative, Awdish recounts the experience of severe illness and near-death on the background of being a physician herself. She shares almost “crossing over”-esque insights into how and why medicine is failing its patients, as well as its doctors.

In Shock is definitively part-memoir, succinctly conveying the many complexities of Awdish’s illness and survival. True to its intention, it avoids the traditional stiff-upper-lip clinical retelling, and allows for range of emotions experienced by the critically ill individual. It is a narrative not looking purely outwards, but also in. What Awdish distills from her experience is both poignant and pragmatic.

“Illness is viewed as an aberrant state. It is a town we drive through on a journey home, but not a place to stop and linger.”

In Shock is about medicine’s broken telephone. It is about our inherent, but often unintentional, disrespect for patients and ourselves. It is about seeking comfort in the wrong ways, and about righting our bad medical habits. Continue reading “Read This Book: In Shock by Rana Awdish”

Tips and Tricks: Planning Your Elective [Part 1]

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 14.17.59Since I’ve kind of started paying more attention to the blog again, my friend Caroline asked me to share some tips on electives. (Hi, Caroline!) You may remember the elective series I ran a few years ago. I haven’t exactly stopped the series, I just am not really in the position to seek out medical students for interviews anymore. (Guest posts welcome, hint-hint, nudge-nudge.)

I’ll give as much advice as I could gather from myself and friends, over a few days. Today, I’ll start off with the process of choosing your elective.

Disclaimer: This will be written with South African medical students in mind. For international students, note that some things might not apply to your program.

First: Start. Early.

If you think you’ve got plenty time, you’re wrong! I have a colleague who went to Oxford for her elective, and she booked her space for the program more than a year in advance. If you have a holiday between exams and rotations, use that time. Do not rely on the hope that things will just fall into place. (I speak from experience.) Continue reading “Tips and Tricks: Planning Your Elective [Part 1]”

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.

give up hope dont

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?”

Ten Books Every Lifelong Learner Should Read

Linking up with The Broke and The Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday. Today’s topic is “Ten books every (X) Should read.”

fa06114a227c0d6d401a3473ca949b4fI have a million-bajillion lists about books every medical student or health-professional should read; so I decided to pretend I know something and suggest books for, well, almost everyone. On Semester at Sea, we had “Lifelong Learners”. These were slightly older voyagers who had already worked and gained life experience, and who sailed with us and audited classes.

I like the concept of lifelong learning. I love the idea that you are not stuck with learning only about whatever you studied in college/university; I love the idea that you can gain knowledge about almost anything if you are inspired to do so (thank you, Google). I believe I am a life-long learner; and I believe that books are at least partially responsible for that.

The list, in no particular order: Continue reading “Ten Books Every Lifelong Learner Should Read”

Dear Graduates: You Should Be Supporting #FeesMustFall

Dear Graduates of South Africa

Perhaps, like me, you shook your head when you first saw the hashtag #FeesMustFall. You empathised with the expense of tertiary education, but you had lives to save or exams to mark or bridges to build and you thought, “Why do young people in this country want to make everything FALL?”

Continue reading “Dear Graduates: You Should Be Supporting #FeesMustFall”

Learning Through Fiction | Ethiopia in “Black Dove, White Raven” [+Infographic]

I’ve decided to start a new sort-of series (that will obviously be completely irregular) about things I learn from books. Fictional books! I love learning new things, and that’s not only limited to topics in my chosen profession. One of the reasons I love reading is that it opens my eyes to so many things I never knew, or points of view I had not considered. 

learn through fiction

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein – this was the book I just could not wait to buy. After Code Name Verity smashed my heart to smithereens and ground it underfoot, I had to have more (well, the book was really good). Continue reading “Learning Through Fiction | Ethiopia in “Black Dove, White Raven” [+Infographic]”

Another Disability Grant Request

“Uyagoduka namhlanje!” I say with the biggest smile. You can go home today! It’s one of my favourite things to tell patients. Sometimes I think it’s the only time they ever like me.

And she does smile. The physiotherapist discharged her day one post-op and she wanted to go home so badly, but I felt day one was a bit soon. What can I say: I’m an intern, I’m too careful.

Then she asks, “So what thing did you put in my leg?”

She injured herself playing contact sports and sustained a mean distal femur fracture. I tell her the basics: we put some hardware in her leg to keep the bone together.

And her neighbour, a middle-aged woman, says, “So that means she can get a disability grant.”

Copyright Faheema Patel 2010, “Human Inside” | Click image for link.

NO. Continue reading “Another Disability Grant Request”