My first week as a medical student in the hospital

I wrote this post a long time back (February 2021), but resisted uploading it (grrr the resistance…). That said, I want to write a bit more about my journey in the hospital. Every week I end up in the craziest situations, so writing about it will be a good way to process what happened.

Witnessing a poor lady getting the diagnosis incurable pancreatic cancer, getting shouted at by a delirious patient, and performing a rectal examination were amongst the many adventures during the first week as a medical student in the hospital. As a medical student at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam in The Netherlands, I’ve received 3 years of training on how the human body works. As a medical student you are taught which symptoms are linked to specific diseases, how to extract relevant information from a patient and how to perform physical examination. Nevertheless, when the time finally came to enter the hospital in my 4th year as a medical student, fear and doubt entered my mind.

I was sent to a faraway hospital in the south of The Netherlands. Since it’s a 1.5-hour drive from Rotterdam, I fortunately got allocated a room next to the hospital for 10 weeks. My first clinical rotation is in the internal medicine department. Every week I’m linked to a different doctor and tag along with them. Whenever a new patient is referred by their respective GP, I am allowed to first see them. I question them about the problem, perform the physical examination, discuss my findings with the specialist in the absence of the patient and finally the patient is called in to get the specialist’s opinion. One of the most intense consultations of the week included telling a patient in her 60s that she has got incurable pancreatic cancer (just to be clear, I simply sat beside the medical oncologist who gave the news). Seeing all the frail people in their 60s, 70s and 80s approaching the end of their lives is a strong reminder that time is limited. Even though I easily get carried away by all the minutia, this is a good moment to take some time to look back at my journey and acknowledge no one lives forever. Whether you’re 80 years old, 50 years old, 29 years old (like me) or just born, I’m sorry to say but time is running out. One-third of our lives is gone because of sleeping, what you do with the remaining two-thirds is up to you. We’ve got to spend our time consciously, because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring us. For the most us (including me), the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough, the problem is too often we don’t spend it well…

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