Friday, February 26, 2010

Parallel Consulting

I have my first day of real, live, “parallel consulting” today. I’m probably a late starter, but I’m still not sure if I’m quite ready. They find me a spare room (it’s equipped with all the finer details such as chairs, computer, and sphygmomanometer - very nice!), and then point me towards the patients.

And I get to meet a surprising array of patients, too. I see a high school boy who last night had his first generalised tonic-clonic seizure and now needs to be investigated for epilepsy. I talk with him and his mother for an hour and a half, mostly trying to remember all of my “nervous system” questions and neural examinations, and partly chatting to stall for time while my own brain slowly ticks over. I see a man from the local factory who has injured his sternomastoid muscle driving forklifts and needs to be put on alternative duties. A young man comes in with oral thrush, and apologises for making me go near his mouth. I apologise for eliciting his gag reflex by poking his tonsils with a large paddle-pop stick. I also see a young girl, who comes in with her mum, and talk about menorrhagia (ah, girl talk). It takes a while to get to the point, especially when the girl won’t talk at all and the mum begins with, “she’s been having trouble with her monthlies”. But we get there in the end. Finally, there is also a man with foot pain, who becomes inspired to go for a proper foot massage after my brief examination. He exclaims, “I thought it would tickle, but it actually felt really good!” I just want to wash my hands, or buy new ones.

And I like it. I like talking to all of them, and trying to keep them on the topic of medical problems. They seem to like having a captive audience with no apparent time restraints as well. Maybe I could do this.

Something that strikes me as a little worrying, however, is that although I am quite happy to ask questions, I really have no idea what to do with the answers. I’ve noticed before that when the doctor is in the room, patients will listen to my question, then turn back to the doctor to give their answer. The patients are on to me.

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