ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 13

Lessons learnt and things to do after internship

Intern’s diary by Anedu.

The rains had started again, and I was glad that I was no longer in a medical ward, for the rains always signalled the beginning of a minor epidemic of coughs and colds. It would not be long before the hospital was flooded with children with respiratory tract infections.

Part of being a good doctor I’ve come to realize is being able to anticipate things, like knowing when to operate and when to just observe, which, of course, comes with experience, something we were slowly gaining. While for some conditions there were clear protocols to follow, much in clinical medicine was left to the ‘clinical sense’ of the doctor – that strange set of deductive conclusions influenced by experience and knowledge.

Meanwhile, speculation was rife as to when the new batch of interns would come; everyone was tired now and hoping for some relief.

Although by now I had managed to progress from no breakfast to breakfast, the monotony of the canteen diet was getting to me. If there was one thing I would do after all this was over, it would be to cook. Or to be more precise learn how to. Another thing I planned to do was to learn Tamil properly. It was during this internship that for the first time in my life I realized what a drawback not knowing the language was. And for those patients who are transferred from the remote parts of the north of the country, we of the same country must surely appear alien because of this.

In the meantime we had inadvertently formed the habit of communicating with children using their own methods (which, of course, involved gesturing and making funny noises). Although a very useful thing in the ward, it was funny when some of us unwittingly started making funny gestures at children outside the hospital! The children responded but the parents did not.

The art of communicating with children is probably the greatest lesson we had learned. For the smaller ones the primary concern is milk. It is the great pacifier; without this nothing will calm them. All else is secondary.

For those a little older, the world around them is brand-new every day. For them, we had learned the most interesting object of all is the one thing you couldn’t spare – your pen! No toy was as interesting as that thing the strange fellow with the tube around his neck kept rubbing on that white thing. For the ones who were a little bit older, the most interesting of all alas was another thing you could hardly part with. Your stethoscope for them is of immense interest. The bigger children, of course, gave you little trouble, unless you tried to prick them. Then all hell would break loose.

Talking of parents we had come to agree there were two types. One type believed that their children would get better, the other was mortally pessimistic and miserable. In our experience it seemed that the children of the first group spent much less time in the hospital while the second group even for the smallest of illnesses spent much more time. Still on the subject of parents, it was amazing how many had no idea at all as to what day it was. Many even had no idea what month it was in terms of numbers (the 8th or 9th month and so on). There were some who didn’t even know the year! But most amazingly they could tell their child’s age, exactly. (All this came to light when we had to obtain the parent’s consent for surgery). As for the internship, there are two months more to go and the time to think of a life after is slowly drawing nearer.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.