When the (Student) Doctor Becomes the Patient

If I have learned anything at all so far in life it’s that experience is the best teacher. And I’ve had this lesson more than once. I understood it from the first time, but each subsequent lesson has made it more concrete.

Of course you don’t always want to be that

“Touch the stove to find out if it’s actually hot.” type of person. This is definitely me some of the time. Part of me being slightly stubborn, very curious, and having to know for myself, I suppose. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t try to find out everything through experience.

Sometimes, I can take your word for it.

There are some experiences I would rather avoid, as anyone else.

But there is definitely something to be said for having first hand knowledge of something. I’m almost always weary of second hand recount of information.

How do you know?

You can’t really understand something unless you’re in it.

Stay with me, a little story time is in order to make my point.

One of my earliest experiences of this was my sister telling me that I should suck it up, because “how hard can nursing be?”

I was a nursing student at the time, and as it goes for anything that’s great, and takes time, I was struggling. It was difficult to balance work, school and life. I had three jobs I shuffled between on the weekends and school full time during the week (with crazy clinical hours). A tiny semblance of a social life. One of these jobs was working as a dietary aide in a nursing home. I had this job long before my personal support worker job or nursing school, and my sister also worked in the kitchen with me. Anyone who does this work knows you get a nice view of what the nurses do.

So I thought as well.

I believed that I was a little prepared for nursing because I saw a lot in the dining rooms.

I was wrong. People, I got to nursing school, and learned that I knew nothing except what to do when it came to meal times (kind of). Once this realization hit, I acted as close to a sponge as possible and tried to work to soak up all the knowledge I could.

But my sister insisted that she knew enough about what nursing was like because she saw it. She could do it with her eyes closed, and I was being dramatic.

Having done both jobs, I knew that was misguided. I knew the truth. You only see a fraction of what nursing is all about.

Experience is the best teacher.

I believe that in order to do most things, there must be some type of practice involved. Gain your experience so you know what’s what when you’re in charge or have to be independent. I’ve found the best mangers are those who worked their way up. The best leaders, know how to follow.

I want to be able to be independent in the future.

I want to be a leader.

I would like to be a great doctor for my patients.

And to be that, of course I have to understand my patients needs, medical and otherwise.

Empathy is all good, and certainly necessary, but with crazy long and difficult hours doing a job that is mentally, physically and emotionally taxing, it can be hard to get good intentions across. And I know, from personal experience, that in hard times nothing sounds more reassuring than

I know how you feel.

People like to feel that someone understands.

So I’ll take this experience in stride and hope that in exchange for the time I’ve spent on hiatus from moving forward in my studies, I have gained a way to better understand and take care of my patients in the future.

What experience am I taking about?

I’m not going to go in depth about it, and I’m not trying to be cryptic, but it’s really not the point of this post. I will say that I went through more than the average checkup for sure. I went from routine checkup, to the hospital, the the doctor, to the hospital again and back and forth for pretty much most of this year.

Don’t worry, I’m making a full recovery. My issue is common enough and literally easy to fix and nothing to worry about once you know about it, but it was definitely sketchy at a point of this journey. The best thing for me is to just nip the problem in the bud and not let it get out of control, so I decided that I would. Handle it completely.

Do it once, do it right.

It takes a long time to get back to normal, but I’m glad I am home instead of abroad. I’m not worried about being on pause (anymore, lol. I had to learn to just let it be). I just have to take care of myself and be consistent with orders and I’ll be right back in top shape to tackle school again.

It honestly sucks when you’re going full steam ahead in something, and then you suddenly and unexpectedly have to stop for repairs.

This is life.

Never know what you’ll get. But there will always be a lesson there to make it worth while.

I think it’s not such a steep price to pay for being able to genuinely understand when a patient says something about their healthcare experience, and you can say.

I can understand how you may be feeling.

Going through the health system from “Chief Complaint” to “Full Recovery”, no matter how minor can be difficult for sure. I know it was for me. But I’m glad I had this experience to teach me a little something about patient experience. And I hope in the future, it will become one of the facets of me that will help make me a good doctor.

You can’t fix everything.

And being a healthcare worker in the past, and learning to become one in the future has taught me that as health professionals, we shouldn’t make promises to fix people.

I’m glad that I can promise to do my best, and make the patient experience as smooth as possible. This, I can do.

My interaction with health professionals was largely positive. I’ve had a few not so good experiences as well, but for the most part it was all good. Sweet, competent and thoughtful nurses who didn’t poke me a million times just to get blood (though I’m aware this takes practice and sometimes can’t be avoided. I was happy to avoid that). Patient doctors who took their time to explain everything that was going on to me, and some who even took it further when they learned I was a medical student and quizzed me a bit without making me nervous, just for fun.

They listened to my concerns and validated my worries before giving kind reassurance.

It is a vulnerable position to be in as a patient. Not being well was difficult enough, and it was great that I didn’t have to worry about if I was being taken care of properly or having worries that I felt I couldn’t voice. I want my patients to have that same feeling I had.

I want them to be at ease that I’m doing all I can to serve them. That feeling is priceless. I felt it, so I know it.

And I’m so excited that I have the opportunity to one day be a part of a team to help provide that kind of care in the future.

Have you ever become a long term patient? Have you had a good experience with the healthcare professionals, or not so much?

I’ve decided I’ll put this time off to good use and I think I’m doing quite well on that front at least. Of course I would rather to not be going through all this back and forth business. But who knows, maybe I needed to. I’m for sure going to try and make sure I make it useful. Make a positive out of a negative, so to speak. Writing this post has helped me to put this whole experience into perspective, and I’m hoping in the future I can come back, read this, and remember a little about what it’s like to be in the patient’s shoes.


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