My white coat is too big
25 July 2016 § 2 Comments
25 July 2016
It’s father’s birthday!
Last year, I received a white, shapeless, mostly polyester (65/35) garment. The sleeves made my hands appear nonexistent and my arms slothful, and the length of the coat placed me in the nebulous land of maybe intern? maybe student? who are you??. I told myself that I would grow into this coat, that this metaphor would guide me along my development into a professional-looking collection of facts. My classmates, who seemed familiar with each other already, perhaps because they were not human-repelling in all black with white shoes, reveled in these hideous thin jackets as though they had just joined a very attractive priesthood. Why do people love wearing white coats so much? They make camouflaging oneself difficult.
Speaking of difficulty, it could have been the word of last academic year. Perhaps it was punishment for saying, easily-breezily, “Oh, school will be hard, but it can’t be that hard,” or maybe punishment for not knowing enough science already, a situation that worsened with the appearance of our ridiculous course director who delivered lectures by shouting in phrases, with no regard to subject-verb agreement or, really, agreement of any kind. I think of one night in lab, two days before our head and neck exam, when I misidentified the eye as the ear (“I found the great auricular nerve!” “Emily…that’s the eye.”) and wonder how I passed.
I did later attempt to remedy this gap in knowledge by shadowing in ophthalmology clinic. Unfortunately, the person I was supposed to shadow forgot about me and went on holiday (I get lost enough by myself without extra help, thank you), but eventually I latched onto a glaucoma specialist, a dignified and quiet man whose voice made me want to take an afternoon nap instead of standing at attention in my unfortunate polyester coat for four hours. One patient offered a brief reprieve, though I had to injure myself in several ways to stop myself from laughing, when she described her “trouble-ectomy” (trabeculectomy), which doubtless solved all of her problems.
Another fun shadowing experience happened one afternoon in the headache clinic, when I realised that perhaps neurology is not fun, because you stand there and listen to patients describe their headaches, which just made me want to cry. I wonder if the clinic ever considers that fluorescent lighting and shiny, ugly floors actually induces headaches in their patients.
As far as growing into my white coat went, I actually regressed. Was it the obsessive swimming in an attempt to purge my body of the scent of anatomy lab? Was it the acquisition of so many details that I ran out of room in my body for food? Was it a professor (term used loosely here) offering assurance in the form of a philosophical puzzle?:
If one is having trouble figuring out what is of importance in the lecture material the learning issues can help clarify what the objectives for the lecture are realizing that there may be some points in the learning issues that were not covered in the lectures.
[printed verbatim from an unwelcome email]
That course, from Thanksgiving to the end of February, is a dark haze of obscure notes, and by notes I mean actual tiny pieces of paper with lists of Gram-negative rods (camping with Campy, anyone?) and too many super-receptors and megaligands and intergalactic fibroblast growth factors. Putting all of the details into an orderly framework was more difficult than in anatomy, which offered me the fun of drawing anything I needed to understand.
Luckily, I passed the course, asking myself why such an occurrence was becoming a theme, and flew to Haiti, where I saw real patients whilst wearing cotton scrubs and not a stitch of polyester. I also found some good coffee and should have bought five more bags of it. I also had fun speaking French, although I’m still limited to three sentences in Creole.
Neuroscience proved better, probably because our course director could speak in complete sentences and my brain actually had to wake up to experience a thought or two, with a glimpse of reasoning now and then amidst the fog of stroke syndromes.
I finally had my triple-cuffed sleeves hemmed (how it pained me to put more money into this undeserving cloak of ignorance), although, honestly, my white coat is still too big.