Learning How to Introduce Yourself – It’s an art!

Today I went to school and played doctor. I am still giddy thinking about it!

My medical school teaches a year-long course (it will actually extend into second year) called Essentials of Clinical Medicine. A part of that is a class called “Physical Diagnosis,” where we learn how to take a patient’s history, do a basic physical exam, etc. Well we fledgling med students learned how to introduce ourselves today, and it was no walk in the park!

A big part of this is learning to see the doctor-patient interaction as a partnership, where the patient is the leader/president of him or herself, and we doctors (student-doctor in my case) are expert advice givers in our area. There’s a lot to learn about communicating well and learning to listen to other people, and extracting information from people who are in pain and/or uncomfortable. Some people won’t know how to describe pain, or will be in so much physical pain that they can’t. And others will have no idea about what symptoms are actually even symptoms. And it’s our job to find out everything pertinent in a professional and friendly manner.

So today was just a little practice!

I knocked on the door and introduced myself and my status as a first year medical student. Then I asked if the patient (our preceptor in disguise 😉 ) minded if I washed my hands. We struck up some casual small talk, and then shook hands. I asked to sit down – the asking is important! It all goes back to the partnership idea, and letting patients know that doctors are not their bosses who hold power over them. Then everything seemed to go well…but I was so nervous, I forgot what “OLDCARTS” stood for, and I kept forgetting the details the patient would say. This is something I must work on and fix! Either I will become more comfortable will my own flow of questions, or I will need to write as I interview. I cannot forget the words the patients use, because if I forget, am I really even listening? Moreover, will they feel like I don’t really care if I don’t try hard enough to remember? For instance, the patient said, “I have a chest pain that feels like a large pressure…an elephant on my chest.” And I later said, “A sharp pain…” which was not the way the pain was described.

My preceptor was just great. He was quick to point out mistakes in a way that showed just how important it is that we don’t make them (“Are you even listening to me?” *chuckle*), but he wasn’t mean or upset about it. I am excited to learn more from him, and his easygoing manner just makes time fly!

Overall, this was a great learning experience, and I am going to practice on all my friends. 😀 I am so excited to be practicing these parts of being a doctor, because I feel like it’s where I am severely lacking in experience. I know what school is and how to learn, and I know I have a LOT of medical science to learn…but the patient interaction in times of distress (for them, pain. for me, nerves) and then the differential diagnosis process…that’s what I am most excited to keep practicing.

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