Family Medicine Wards

Adam K., First Year Medical Student

As I sit down to write this post, my head is spinning with new anatomical terms. For some reason “external occipital protuberance” is stuck in my mind and my mental voice continues to chant all those syllables. When I try to sleep, I think of transverse foramen and sternocleidomastoids. It’s bizarre, but that’s med school.

The first week of classes has been a brutal initiation, with anatomy composing the bulk of the suffering. Nothing is too complicated; it’s just the sheer volume. You thought you were ready for this, but after the first lecture you realized that you were NOT, and that the overwhelmed, my-head-is-on-fire feeling that you can’t shake is probably not going to leave anytime soon. It’s tough, it’s draining, but I absolutely love it.

One thing keeping me focused through all this, and something that I am very glad is part of the Loma Linda curriculum, is the ward experience we had in the two weeks prior to the start of classes. The goal of wards is simply to expose you to a (possibly new) discipline, see how a medical team works, and experience some patient interaction before the blitz of textbook material begins. My previous experience was mainly in pathology, with a little urology sprinkled in there somewhere, so when I discovered I was assigned to a family medicine inpatient ward, I had no idea what to expect.

The family medicine team consisted of another first year med student, two interns, two residents, an attending physician, and myself. The second week we switched attendings, and added a fourth year med student and another intern. I could tell right away that I was going to get along with them. They were earnest, had a great sense of humor, and worked well with each other. The first day we spent the first ten minutes of rounds discussing our favorite restaurants in the area. The next day, recent vacations.

The family medicine team

The family medicine team

At about 9 AM every morning, the team would go through rounds, either at the table in the call room, or walking rounds in the ward. One thing that surprised me was the amount of interrupting concern. The phones were constantly ringing with different patient issues. Typically we had about a dozen patients in the ward, and after going through each in detail, the whole team would visit the patients.

I won’t go into detail about most of the things I soaked up in those two weeks (including my newfound love of family medicine—a later post, perhaps), but I do want to discuss the Love Rounds. Each Thursday afternoon, the family medicine team visits a patient to talk with them about their personal and spiritual life. The woman we visited was a regular patient with diverse medical issues, and someone the team thought they knew fairly well. In the course of a forty-minute conversation, we learned the source of her anxiety (the traumatic death of her father and the fear that she would die and leave her kids behind), her earnest but unformed belief in God, and other personal details. It was amazing to see the more intimate side of medicine. The intern in charge of her care said his eyes were opened and that he now understood her situation much better.

That’s what this is about, taking care of the whole person, and as my mind burns with anatomy, I can remember that there is a higher purpose to what we are doing.

From the OR to the Classroom

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After two weeks of great clinical experience, the real work now begins.  The classroom and library are now my homes.  But before the week gets really busy I want to share a bit about my brief time in anesthesiology and orthopedic surgery.  In short, it was great.  Far beyond my expectations.  Instead of standing in the corner and silently observing I got to make incisions, practice suturing, assist in the removal of rods and screws, feed medications into IV lines, and of course ask a lot of questions.  Such an excellent way to start this adventure.  I am really looking forward to the four week clinical rotation we will have at the end of the year.

Since today is the first day of classroom fun I want to mention the extensive support provided by those who have come before us.  They have shared many tips and strategies that I have no doubt will be very, very helpful over the next two years.  An unexpected bonus of starting the year with the clinical rotation is that you have two weeks to become familiar with these tools instead of trying to do it on top of the daily study load.

That’s all for now, have a great week!

“Am I a doctor yet?”

Carly, First Year Medical Student

This was the question I kept asking myself as I sat through what felt like four years of medical school; and yet I still hadn’t left Wong Kerlee on the first day of freshman orientation.

Don’t get me wrong – I am ever so grateful for LLU for preparing us as well as they possibly can for what is to come. It was quite exhilarating to meet new classmates, receive information packets full of details I’ve been wondering about since I got the call in February, and of course, to receive the iPads.

And yet, what I was most excited about came Thursday night at 7 p.m. Many nights of struggling through Organic Chemistry led me to dream about this moment. I was lucky enough to be coated by a family friend I have known my whole life, Dr. Thomas.

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After all that excitement, come Friday afternoon, I was beat.

Two weeks of wards, random lectures, and workshops followed; I was assigned to the Internal Medicine ward at the VA. I was happy to get a ward that is relatively slow paced – it allowed me some patient interaction, and ample opportunity to learn from my very gracious third years. I was also blessed with a wonderful team of residents, interns, and attending physicians. Although I still don’t know anything, really, time in the hospital gave me a glimpse at what I will be working so hard for.

Now, all that is left before plunging into the fray is one last sunny afternoon at home. I am excited, nervous, and grateful to be here at LLUSM, and feeling blessed to document the journey for all of you.

Pray for us!