Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Key is to be Proactive

Have been in placements for about 10 weeks now and I have had many ups and downs as you have read in my previous posts. After looking back at my placements, I've realized that my best experiences had been when I am being proactive. Being active in learning and stepping out from my consultant's shadow. In my first placement in the summer, I put a lot of effort into taking patient histories and doing loads of physical examinations (cardio, resp, and abdo). 2nd placement...did a lot of ward rounds - definitely seen a lot. For comparison sake - first placement I took about 10 patient histories and have done 4 cardiac exams, 3 respiratory exams, and 3 abdo exams. 2nd placement: 1 patient history, 1 shortened peripheral nerve exam. Poor showing in the 2nd placement. Yesterday, I did a group revision session on cardiac, resp, and abdo examinations. I knew how to do those examinations quite well and knew what I was looking for and can easily explain positive findings. The minute we got into neuro and musculoskeletal (MSK) exams...I died a little inside. I didn't know what was going on. Okay well MSK was easy to follow as I'm quite familiar with joints and those tests...but neuro was painful. I obviously didn't know how to do these exams as well as the cardio, resp, and abdo exams and it just felt horrible how lopsided my learning has been. Thinking back - it was because I was really proactive in my first placement. I had put a lot of effort into seeing patients and doing examinations. These last 2 placements - I've should we put it...lazy.

You might ask: why suddenly the realization? Yesterday I was in clinic in the afternoon and my consultant told me to go take patient histories of the new patients in clinic and to come back and present the histories to him. While presenting, my consultant would ask questions dealing with the presenting complaint and about the differential diagnosis. It really made me think and be on the ball. When I didn't know something - he would teach me what to look for in a history and I realized: "I'm actually learning and remembering this." Once clinic was over - I actually had a good time. I felt independent and a lot more confident in my history taking skills as I got to present my histories and then got quizzed on it. I also realized that I was quite rough with my history taking with my first patient but by the time I saw my 3rd patient - it was easy and straight forward. It was a great feeling and a great confidence boost.

Now I'm sitting about - pondering - actually no...stressing about exams (OSCE + 2 written papers in December). There's no way I can pull off taking good histories and performing examinations without practice. I need to be proactive and do what I did in my first placement. Make a schedule and follow it. Be involved and just take a step away from my consultant and tell him that I need to practice. There isn't much point following him - I've got a good idea what the specialty is about already. I need to see more physical signs and conditions to start seeing patterns and recognizing things quicker. 4 more weeks of placements - I need to get back on the wards and talk to patients!

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