Hello from the other side

AS ONE of the resident monitors for Learning Unit V (also known as med school's Third Year), I had the job of helping to oversee the OSCE—a battery of exams composed of eight or ten stations where students are expected to do physical exams for various organ systems, write clinical impressions, and do so with the flair of having practiced the routines for ten years. Each station was manned by a different department; Internal Medicine had two stations, which I took part in.

It was a "hello from the other side" moment for me, something that fascinated me and brought me to various realizations. These I confessed to the staff from the College, who probably still remember me vaguely as the one of the faces  in Block III who looked nervous, rehearsing scripts that started with "Good morning, Ma'am. I am Clerk Lance Catedral, and I will begin the physical exam by washing my hands."

Before the actual OSCE were days of preparation. One half-day was devoted to practicing the sutures  on a pata (pork leg), which we'd later deep fry and devour. On the other days, we were preoccupied with preparing our scripts, or memorizing hand-me down tips from those in the upper year levels. The devil was in the details, and we were told not to forget to turn on the drop light when we started our internal exam, or to ask for the patient's name, despite the fact that the patient would be an overused plastic mannequin whose cervix was as firm as a pencil eraser.

Sitting from the other side allowed me to see the palpable stress among the students; these manifested as overanalysis, or gross errors in their management plans, or restless legs even as they were seated. I smiled at them, encouraging them with, "Malapit na; relaks," as they transferred from one station to the next.

My favorite part of this exercise happened during the last minutes, when the bells would incessantly ring, and a voice would announce, "This is your last station! Congratulations!" There would be yelling and picture-taking and rowdy discussing of answers and non-answers in the lobby. One would hear of plans to go the beach or to have lunch somewhere far.

It is a sight—a truly joyful, victorious sight—that one cannot get used to, even if one sits on the other side.

2 thoughts on “Hello from the other side”

  1. Been following your blog for 4 years now. It's funny na feeling ko entitled na ako maging proud of you. :)

    Way to go, Doc Lance.

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