Ode to the newbies.
May 22, 2011
“Can you believe it? A TRAINEE doctor!”
I was making my way to do a pre-op assessment on a patient one evening (yup, working late) and my mind wandered to the agonising decision on how many KFC drumsticks I should takeaway later. That thought was quickly put on hold as I walked into my patient’s cubicle.
In bed was the lady I’m looking for, an arm in a sling awaiting her surgery on the after-hours orthopaedic list. A young guy was sitting by her bedside reading the newspaper. Both looked up and nodded as I gave the wide wave and smile which (according to the nurses) is too cheerful for someone working late.
It was soon established that the lady speaks minimal English and the son (the young guy) would be helping to translate back and forth. I went through my usual questions probing her med/surg history, and then informed that I might be putting a larger cannula on her other arm closer to the time of surgery.
Immediately the son had gone into a rant.
He pointed to the back of his mum’s hand (where I could see a small band-aid) and started looking all annoyed. Looked like a previous unsuccessful IV attempt.
“Earlier some trainee doctor tried to put a drip in, and he didn’t do it right and it hurts my mum so much. Imagine, a trainee doctor! How ridiculous is that??”, sputtered he.
I glanced at the mum and saw that she was nodding at her son’s words.
“Well…this is the way that the trainees learn. They need the practice.”, as I offered the son an apologetic smile.
“But how can they do that at my mum’s expense! I mean, a trainee doctor, come on! Why can’t they send over a real doctor to do it??”.
Look, I could understand why the son is upset – but I also don’t think they understand that we have no other way to learn except to real life practice. As tempted as I was to start my lil’ own dialogue on the learning predicaments of med students/interns/the rest of us, I chose to minimise dwelling on it.
I sympathetically apologised to the mum for the inconvenience caused, but did briefly maintained the juniors are learning and skill is gained via experience. It was unfortunate/regrettable that the attempt caused her significant discomfort.
I probably could have mentioned that the consultants they see walking around now were once newbies; we all gotta start from somewhere. The other thing is from the manner the son speaks, it sounded like they were expecting any real doctor to be able to do an successful IV on first try – to the point where I’d expect the son to gasp in disbelief/horror should they ever witness a more senior doctor fail putting in the drip.
Yes, the more experienced the doc is, the chances are better at a successful attempt. But ‘real’ doctor or not – we are all still learning, and we are not infallible.
However, if unrealistic individuals still choose to persist in condemning the newbies…in a world with no consequences, we might need to use one of these :-