Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Third Year Manifesto, Part 2: Stories

In which I vent all the stories that I've kept bottled up so as not to be a whiner. The last part of this trio of posts is coming tomorrow.


I obediently submitted to being taught how to insert a Foley every time I inserted one. Today (the first day of fourth year) was the first time no one approached me and said, “oh, let me show you how….” It was disorienting. Wasn’t someone going to smother me with their preferences?

I breathed. I felt free! But the freedom was not to last. As I proceeded, I heard a very distinct “hmpf!” behind me, in the same tone people use when they raise an eyebrow and say “well, that’s interesting!” and really mean something much less benign.


The first vaginal delivery I attended on L&D, I did what the clerkship director told me to do: I protected the perineum and stayed close, in case I could actually be allowed to deliver the baby. This is called, good-naturedly, “being aggressive,” and it’s a good quality in medical trainees.

In that first delivery, a senior resident and an intern were also there. I guess if I were more shrewd, I would have known that it was bound to be the intern’s delivery. But who was I to know that what the clerkship director told me wasn’t right?

The senior resident decided to put an end to my aggressiveness. She put her hand on my hands and pushed them away from the field. Pushed. No exaggeration; the equivalent force could have shoved a gallon of milk several feet. The embarassment (and the sheer force) moved me to the back table for the rest of the delivery. When she asked me later, “did you see how the baby did xyz during abc stage?” I felt like saying, “No, of course not. If you want me to see things, don’t push me away.”


When a gentler resident was graciously allowing me to suture subcutaneous tissue in the OR, I put my needle driver down on the field, with the needle still in it. It was the first time I had ever done this, because it was the first time I had to cut off my needle to tie. (It was the first time I wasn’t using 4-0 and subcuticulars in the skin). The scrub tech slapped my hand, chiding me verbally. I blushed with angry embarassment underneath my mask, but tractably apologized, etc. Then, she said these words exactly (I remember them and you’ll see why):

“There are some people,” she said self-righteously, “who’ll slap your hand for that. I won’t, but there are some.”

I tried not to stare at her blankly. I guess it never dawned on her that she, SHE had ACTUALLY (not metaphorically) slapped my hand. I guess people who use that phrase end up acting on it without realizing it?? She has been the only one to do that.


One day in surgery I learned that the scrub tech, the scrub-nurse-in-training, and I were all within a few years of each other. I was the oldest. I was paying, snipping, uncomfortable, and chastised during the surgery. The other two, who were allowed to take a lunch break (during this six-hour surgery), were paid and thanked.

The fact that I’m paying to be there seems to some surgeons to mean that I’m not to be thanked and that I’m automatically incompetent. It seems to say, “she can’t do anything.”

“No, no,” one surgeon said when I reached for a towel to drape a patient. The scrub tech, who had offered me the towel, knew me better than that surgeon. He was being a pal, and he knew I have seen patients draped dozens of times and I could do it. But no! “She’s a medical student, she doesn’t do that,” the surgeon said.

“Excuse me, Doctor Bossy-Pants,” I burned to say. “I am a medical student and I can do that. Watch!” But it’s her sterile field, it’s her OR time, I’m her responsibility and (the real reason) she’s grading me. So I didn’t do that. I backed down. I abased myself.

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