A knock is heard from outside the room. Dr. M enters the room smiling and introducing himself. Z rises up in greeting and as he does so, “have a seat”.
Within these brief moments, I am scribbling down comments. It seems strange to think that so much thought can go into planning these daily patient encounters. From opening the interview, to conducting the interview, responding the patient, educating and collaborating with the patient, and closing the interview, even statement is carefully scrutinized to optimize the patient experience and history. Only by learning a little do I truly realize the extent of how much I still do not know.
The patient animatedly explains his medical history, which reads much like a story or dramatic performance. He is able to recount detailed observations such as the weather the day he felt ill, what he was thinking as he was entering the emergency room, and the small pint of chicken noodle soup and bagel he ate for breakfast. As a student, I observe with awe the dexterity at which the faculty physician navigates the conversation. Before the patient comes into the room, we wonder if it will be a standard patient (a medical actor), but the patient tells his story with such vivid detail, I know it must be real. It is very different looking at the patient from a doctor’s point of view rather than a patient’s view. I want to never forget the feeling of either.
I always find it interesting relating my morning science curriculum with my doctoring courses, which focus on developing clinical and interpersonal skills. Each alone seems to be sufficiently complex such that it almost feels like I could spend a lifetime studying basic science or clinical skills alone. Yet by combining the two, it is in some ways what makes medicine so unique among professions. Medicine is a scientific art that combines cool logic with impassioned humanism.
When I look back at my day, I feel appreciation with how full it is. It is easy to forget that my life outside of medical school occurs. During the week, I hope to work hard such that I can do all the other important things in my life on weekends.
“What’s on your mind today?” Dr. M asks the patient as he begins his medical history taking. This statement seems simple enough, but opens a flood of comments from this particular patient. Perhaps the main point of this statement is that listening is one of the most important skills one can develop.
Joy, a native Ann Arborite, is a rising fourth-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. In her spare time, she enjoys working on quality improvement issues in cardiac surgery, playing violin in the U-M Life Sciences Orchestra, and hanging out with friends.