Kacper Niburski is a medical student in the Class of 2021 at McGill University. He is also the CMAJ student humanities blog editor.
The heart is open and I wonder if my feet smell. Much of the room seems too busy to notice. The surgeon is making a joke about the shaky season of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The attendants laugh in unison. The perfusionists look to their dials, turn one, turn off another, and gaze my way with a nod. Do they smell it too?
Two hours earlier held no scent. The morning swam with sun. I arrived early to the Hospital to shadow the lead cardiac surgeon. ...continue reading →
Danielle Penney is a medical student in the Class of 2021 at McMaster University
“Doctors are jerks.” It was a statement that I had always steadfastly believed to be true; a matter-of-fact statement, just like saying the sky is blue. Though I had no shortage of concrete personal examples to justify my belief, the irony was not lost on me as I stared out from behind the glass of the nursing station, ready to begin my first clinical experience as a new medical student.
I was in the child and adolescent psychiatric ward. From the nursing station, I could see the ward’s common area: the bolted-down tables and chairs, the colourful pictures adorning the walls, the patients scattered about the room—some in groups, some alone. It was a scene that was familiar, yet different. This was far from my first time in a psych ward, but it was my first time being on this side of the glass. ...continue reading →
Sahil Sharma is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at Western University
It was my first week on service for internal medicine as a third-year clerk. I had finally begun to figure out the labyrinth of charts, forms, and computer apps that went into my interactions with patients. I still had four of the eight pens I’d started with and had managed to misplace my sacred “pocket guide” only twice — so, all in all, I was off to a good start.
I was told by my senior to go see a patient who was in ICU step-down and had recently been transferred to our care. I hurriedly went to the computers and started reading up on the patient’s history.
Mr. C had a long and complicated history. He had initially presented to the hospital with signs of cholecystitis but later developed multiple complications landing him in the ICU. After a flurry of resuscitative measures and close monitoring, Mr. C was finally deemed stable enough to be transferred to the ward. ...continue reading →
Shaun Mehta is an Emergency Medicine Resident (R4) at the University of Toronto
In elementary school, I always dreaded bringing my report card home. My grades were good, but the teachers’ comments that followed could go either way — and were unfortunately of much more interest to my parents. I was often described as “disruptive,” and it seemed that relinquishing this quality was the key to making something of myself.
Two decades later, I’m finding out that being disruptive is one of my most valuable assets.
To clarify, we probably shouldn’t praise students for being disruptive in the classroom. But outside of the classroom... now, that’s an entirely different story. The health care industry is ripe for disruption; strapped for cash and bursting at the seams, we need better ways to manage today’s volume and complexity of patients. Forward-looking individuals and organizations have heeded the call and are making huge strides in health care innovation, yet patients continue to suffer as a result of systems-level issues.
By shifting our paradigm of innovation, creating an environment to foster disruption, and educating future leaders to drive change, we stand a chance at driving maleficent creatures (like hallway medicine and eternal wait times) to extinction. ...continue reading →
Serena Arora is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at McMaster University
I love puzzles.
I love looking at the picture on the box, seeing what the completed version will look like and then pouring out all the little pieces — knowing that, somehow, they all come together to create something.
In some ways, practicing medicine is like doing a puzzle. It’s complex, intersecting, and incredibly rewarding when done right. At the same time, medicine is fractured into a thousand different components. As physicians, we look at our patients and we piece them apart into organs and body systems and tissues. We rip the details we think are important from the fabric of their narrative to focus on specific complaints. We take their words and distill them into our jargon, often so much so that their original story would be unrecognizable. Medicine is often an act of reductionism.
Matthew Lee is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at Dalhousie University
I was totally unsure. Meeting a patient who knows they are going to die... wouldn’t it be intrusive, at the end? A student coming into your life: asking questions, getting signatures, asking you to share your precious time. In the same position, I don’t know if I would say yes. That thought makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Checking in on the floor, with information hurriedly scribbled into the margins of a notebook. A brief run-in with her mother in the crowded room, then twenty minutes spent in the hallway — trying not to be obtrusive while staff hurry by. There are visitors every day, and I doubt I looked out of place.
In some ways, I chose to take on this project in order to become more comfortable with death. It’s something I have faced before, and it took years to move past my friend dying from lymphoma. He quickly stepped away to take a phone call at our convocation. It was a biopsy result. Nearly six months to the day and it was all over. It took nearly everything I had. ...continue reading →
Beatrice Preti is an Internal Medicine Resident (R2) at Queen's University
The list is long, but I know your name
Each day before, its spot was the same
Second from the top, the second room on the right
The one with three windows and a broken bathroom light
But today something’s different; the list I have’s bare
I looked for your name, but it wasn’t there
Something has happened, and, in my heart, I know
That though I fought to keep you here, you found a way to go ...continue reading →
Rebecca Lauwers is a medical student in the Class of 2019 at McMaster University
Empathy as invited, first. Still it knocks. Waits. Empathy sees the fogged glass but drags no fingertip across it. There is a grey field; can you, too, see suffering like a red coat in the distance, walking? Do not go charging. What is imposed is not empathy. Set the kettle on the stove. Stoke the fire.
Empathy as unattached. As tracking a runaway bride, who knows what it’s like to be in one moment Ready and the next hijacked by fear. Empathy as the lover who will follow anywhere... yet as fluid as the crowd that will part to allow for what must happen. Empathy as the veil acknowledging the ground it grazes, feeling out the terrain as it follows.
Empathy as seeing it all, somehow, at once. Guided by someone whose vision will narrow and widen and narrow, and — somehow — letting each momentary glimpse be the only thing it sees while watching still over shoulders, overhead. ...continue reading →