A Smaller World

You know, waking up at 5:20-ish AM this past week hasn’t been so bad at all. Yeah I know, sounds kind of absurd, doesn’t it? Here I was thinking that I was going to be struggling to wake up before sunrise, especially since it had been a number of months since I’ve had to do that. (It’s hard to believe that I was consistently waking up at 4:15 AM for three weeks of my Surgery rotation…now THAT was a struggle. 😩) I didn’t really mind waking up so early this past week because it turns out that I had a very positive first week in the Neonatal ICU!

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Now I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I first started. I just figured that because it was such a high-stakes environment, all the health providers on the floor would be very serious. I also thought that seeing all of the sick babies would bring about a somber atmosphere and that I would be the only student on the service working with residents, fellows, attendings and all of the other people on the team who worked in various specialties. Plus, the ICU literally stands for Intensive Care Unit, so I assumed that it was about to be an intense experience in a world that I had no familarity with.

Booooy was I wrong.

Okay, I wasn’t totally wrong. There definitely were a lot of sick babies on the floor, with some of them being as premature as 24-26 weeks. It was sad to see these babies suffering from the medical conditions that they have been unfairly afflicted with and to see them with multiple IVs, tracheostomy tubes, and dialysis ports, amongst other things. We tried to help alleviate their suffering by talking to them and playing with them whenever we were pre-rounding or visiting them throughout the day. Also, of course everyone was very serious about taking proper care of the patients. However, although they were serious in delivering excellent care to the babies, the atmosphere of the NICU was actually much lighter than I had anticipated. The team that I was working with was full of laid-back people who liked to laugh and have fun while at work (probably to help process the emotional turmoil that the NICU can bring), which surprised me a bit. It probably shouldn’t have though, because this is literally what the field of Pediatrics is all about. Plus, to my total surprise, I wasn’t the only student who showed up on the first day of the rotation. There was a PA student starting at the same time as me who was going to be working with me for the duration of the rotation, which was a relief to me. I can definitely handle being the only student on a service (I’ve done it numerous times before), but I’ve always had an even better time whenever I’ve been paired with other students!

With everyone on the team being really nice, likeable and compassionate, my first week in the NICU has been a wonderful experience. And of course they’re all really intelligent, so I’ve learned a ton of information as well, especially from the fellows who have given my colleague and I some useful presentations regarding both the maintenance care of infants and the various pathologies that affect infants. And what’s probably the best part of the experience so far is that I don’t have to worry about having to study for a Shelf exam! I can literally learn whatever I want without worrying about the fact that I need to answer study questions and learn high-yield things!

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Because I don’t have to focus on learning specific topics, I’ve been able to learn more about maintenance care of these patients, about the various machines that are helping these babies survive, about the psychosocial factors regarding the care of these patients and their families, and about all the random things that I come across while exploring this new world of medicine. The only assignments that I have are to deliver two separate presentations on topics of my choosing, but otherwise I’m free to learn whatever I want! I’ve also found myself thinking about what the futures of these patients are going to look like and if they would eventually end up going to camps like Victory Junction when they were older. Overall, I’ve had an awesome time so far and I hope that these next three weeks are just as awesome!

In addition to starting my NICU rotation, I had the “pleasure” of finally taking my Step 2 Clinical Skills exam in Atlanta on Friday. I literally had to drive straight from the hospital to ATL on Thursday afternoon, but I ended up getting there at a decent time thanks to my team allowing me to leave from the hospital earlier than usual. Being able to stay with my girlfriend’s parents at their house was also VERY clutch. I got a good night’s sleep and was fed very well both before and after my exam. The actual exam itself was pretty similar to the clinical practice exams that I had taken on two separate occasions throughout this past year, so I thankfully wasn’t blindsided by anything. It was pretty long (I interviewed and wrote notes for 12 standardized patients) but the day honestly flew by very quickly. Plus, we were fed lunch during one of our breaks at the testing site, which ended up coming in pretty clutch. (I had forgotten to pack snacks for whatever reason 🤦🏿‍♂️).

Even though my school had given me good preparation for the exam and I’ve repeatedly heard that Step 2 CS was a exam that pretty much just tests your English proficiency and your communication skills with another person, I didn’t want to blow it off as something not to take seriously. Plus, I had already been recently burned by my Step 2 CK score, so with that in mind I took the time a few weeks leading up to the exam to review various standardized cases in order to review all the different diagnoses and workup plans that could come in handy on test day. I also visited the USMLE site a week in advance to make sure that I knew all the information regarding the test and even watched the video on the site to ensure that I was familiar with everything on test day. I wasn’t about to give myself any chances to drop the ball! Although there are a few things that I could have done better throughout the test, I want to say that I feel satisfied with my performance overall. But I’m gonna just wait and see what my score is looking like before I proceed to jinx myself. 🤞🏿

After a very easy drive back from ATL, I’m now back in Winston, all ready to focus on learning some more in the NICU this week!

Let’s all make this week an extraordinary one!

“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” – Mother Teresa

– Black Man, M.D.

Facing Tranquility

You know, it’s quite annoying that I have to be at the hospital tomorrow, only to be off on Tuesday for the July 4th holiday. I mean I’m not complaining or anything for the free day off, but it would have been more ideal to return from my weekend trip to Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon as opposed to having to return here this afternoon.

But such is life.

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I had a peaceful 5-hour drive back to Winston that happened to fly by due to the audiobook (Michelle Obama: A Life) that I was listening to. I picked up this new listening-to-audiobooks-during-long-trips habit not too long ago and I must say, I’ve enjoyed listening to them more than bumpin’ music the whole ride. It really makes the drive go a lot faster, especially if you’re listening to really good books. I’ve learned so much about the Obamas from this book as well as from President Obama’s two other books and as a result, I have an even greater level of admiration for them then I already did!

As to why I was in Atlanta, I was just visiting my girlfriend and her family because I had a relatively free weekend to do so. As always, I had a wonderful time with them! I also had a blast crushing her in mini-golf at a rooftop arcade…but then she came back and beat me (barely) in skeeball. Lol. Between going to the movies, eating out at various restaurants, accompanying her as she coached her kids through a swim meet and just hanging out at her house, the time spent with her was very satisfying. Can’t wait to see her again when she finally moves to UNC next month for her combined master’s/doctorate program!

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I spent this past week at a hospice care facility, where I spent time talking to patients there while learning more about the roles of healthcare providers in hospice care. It was my first time ever going to a hospice care facility and I was definitely blown away at how beautiful the center was. There was lively greenery all around the facility, the patients’ spacious rooms had a very homey feel to them with their hardwood floors and radiant rays of sunshine beaming through the windows, and there were flowers stationed all throughout the facility. The atmosphere there was very calm, quiet and peaceful as well. Family and friends were constantly visiting their loved ones and the patients there all seemed to be content with the care they were receiving at the center. The beautiful scenery at the center drew an incredible contrast to the tragic stories that the patients carried with them. It was so sad to hear about the terminal conditions of these people and to watch their families try and prepare themselves for the imminent passing of their loved ones. However, it did make me feel better to witness the amount of quality care that these patients received as they waited to pass on.

Along with talking to the patients and their families, my two classmates and I were granted the opportunity to understand the roles that the chaplain and the massage therapist played at the center. The chaplain spoke with us about how vital his role was to the patients he serves and how he attended to their spiritual needs. In particular, he emphasized the spiritual tasks of making meaning & finding hope and on the principles that he uses in his everyday routine, which include understanding the ministry of presence, embracing the struggle, normalizing feelings, promoting life review, addressing unresolved issues, and utilizing the spiritual resources most comfortable with the patient. As for the massage therapist, he spoke with us on how he uses integrative approaches to help tend to the patients needs. With using the power of the healing touch and manipulating chakra flow, he seeks to make patients cope with their chronic pain better via unconventional avenues. Learning about these perspectives proved to be quite interesting!

One other experience we took a part of was learning from the perspectives of caregivers who were staying in a nearby Family House dedicated to housing caregivers from outside the county. Both myself and a nursing student spoke with one of the caregivers there, who shared with us his perspective of how healthcare has been delievered to his loved one. He specifically emphasized the importance of providing hope and of being compassionate as healthcare providers. He also stated that he has always remembered the providers who had been especially compassionate as well as the ones who had lacked compassion. I’ll forever remember the stories he shared with us and his overarching message of the power of compassion will continue to be one of my guiding principles as I continue working in the healthcare field.

Now that I’ve completed my week of hospice care, I’m headed to my week of inpatient geriatric (elderly) care, meaning that I’ll be back in the hospital after having been working in outpatient care for the past couple of weeks. This also means that I’ll be waking up around 5:45 AM this week, since I have to be there by 7 AM. Ohhhh how much I’ve missed waking up at the crack of dawn. But just like the previous weeks have been so far, this week should be a good one!

Make your week a good one as well! Happy (early) 4th of July to my American readers!

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

– Black Man, M.D.

P.S. – July 4th is cool and all, but it’s too bad my people weren’t granted that glorious freedom as well on that special day. Lemme not get into all that though.

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