Saturday, February 11, 2012

In rapid-fire succession

I'm at the OB Admitting Section (OBAS) where I'm posted for the entire day. Patients come in waves, occupying all the benches in the hallway. Meanwhile, clerks, interns, and residents do a hundred things, all at the same time—taking patient histories, doing internal exams, extracting blood for analysis. I'm lost in the frenzy.

Fridays are usually like this. Charts overflow with names of pregnant women branded as high-risk, many of them referred from the out-patient clinics. They have either hypertension, diabetes, ascending infections, or are in danger of pre-term labor—situations that can potentially harm the mothers or the babies inside. Patients who bleed due to abortions—self-inflicted or otherwise—are also a mainstay.

"You're free?" a resident asks me.

A patient is whisked towards me. I take her vitals before I grab the forms, which I complete in duplicates. Thankfully I have carbon paper. I write as fast as I can. The clerks and interns help me get through the process, teaching me how to make sense of the abbreviations and telling me where to go next.

As soon as I'm done, I refer the patient to one of the residents. The patient is asked to remove her clothes before the examination begins. I look at her, the anxious patient, and wonder what's going on in her head. I do my best to reassure her. Before I come up answers, the exam is done.

My superior dictates her findings to me. "You can confirm those, if you want," she tells me.

I perform the internal exam again, with great difficulty that comes with anything that happens for the first time. Suffice it to say that I had a hard figuring out the orifices—after all, gross human anatomy differs starkly from its plastic model.

"Don't worry. You'll get used to it," the resident says.

For the next hours or so, I learn how to insert an IV line and palpate for an adnexal mass in a suspected case of ectopic pregnancy.

I lose track of time until I hear my stomach grumble. I haven't eaten anything, really, except for a tuna sandwich in the canteen.

"How are you holding up?" I ask Lennie as we monitor four patients lying on stretchers. She tells me she's exhilarated.

I say, "Me, too." I show her the dry specks of blood splattered on my uniform when I inserted an IV line, like they are my battle scars.



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