After 1 week of psych consult, I learned that I do not, under any circumstance, want to go into Internal Medicine. How anyone can stand the smell of someone else’s diarrhea is completely beyond me. And I’m from psych consult! I probably had to smell it for, what, five minutes? Yeah, well, five minutes is far too long. I cannot imagine being on Medicine and actually having to do a physical on someone who stinks of poo. Let’s just say that I was actually glad I hadn’t eaten before seeing this patient because I would have surely vomited otherwise.
We get a lot of consult requests from the various Medicine teams in the hospital. So I’ve had the distinct pleasure of visiting many Medicine areas in the hospital. And they all have that distinct hospital smell that I have now grown quite sick of. Sometimes, this smell is intermingled with the distinct smell of poo. The people in these areas tend to be pretty sick with multiple problems. And MRSA. I guess I should be glad I’ve learned how to gown up for such situations. But, really, I just don’t like it.
At the end of my second week, I learned that I don’t like talking to patients. Or their family. Or anyone else, really. Sure, I already knew that, but I thought it would change when I started wards. That something inside of me would magically change and I all of a sudden wouldn’t be socially awkward anymore or hate talking with people. No such luck. There’s nothing like knowing nothing to really make you not want to open your mouth when speaking to patients. Patients who expect you to know everything.
By the end of my third week, I decided that I’m going into Radiology. Over the weekend, I debated whether it was really what I wanted because I never really liked what little Radiology I had been exposed to in my first two years of med school. And it’s also 4 years on top of an internship year. Plus I’d want to either do a Neuro or Interventional fellowship, which would add another 1-2 years, making it 6-7 years total, far too long a time for someone who has already wasted 4 years on a PhD that she’ll likely never use. So I had my doubts.
Then, yesterday, my attending insisted on watching me interview a patient. These kinds of situations are particularly painful for me because of my social awkwardness and nervousness when being watched by other people. Of course, I get a psychotic patient. Which I’ve never seen before. So I really concentrated on making sure I asked the right questions on the timecourse of his symptoms as well as things to rule out depression and mania and the like. And because I was being watched and didn’t want to waste the attending’s precious time, I directed the interview more than I usually do, sometimes cutting off the patient’s rambling answers to interject my own questions, but never too brazenly. I also took this approach because I’ve gotten quite a few delirious/talkative patients who would talk and talk and talk without making much sense, making for really long pointless interviews and I was kind of tired of it. Also, I was modeling the interview style of the other attending, who I’ve worked with more than this particular one, who keeps things nice and short. Well, at the end of it all, this attending called me an unempathetic information gatherer. Now that might sound painful to those who aren’t used to hearing themselves being described that way. But it didn’t surprise me at all. I actually wanted to respond by saying, “Tell me something I don’t already know” because I didn’t find that assessment particularly useful. I know that I suck at empathy. That’s because I suck at social interactions, period. Sometimes, I think I have Asperger’s. And the sad thing is that I was actually trying during this interview. Though not as much as with unwatched interviews because I always feel so fake doing such things and didn’t want the attending to call me out on it. Yeah, that plan worked out well.
So, that’s how I’ve come to decide that Radiology is for me after just 3.5 weeks on rotations. The only thing that might change my mind is Surgery. But I doubt it. And I’m sure my attendings will be glad to know that I won’t be spreading my unempatheticness wide and far.