Monday, April 20, 2015

Life as a medical student #8 My First Oncall Experience

For many housemen, on call is daunting. The rest of the world is asleep - their consultants, most of their peers, and in many cases even their supervising medical officers will be asleep. But not them. They need to stay up and be alert at the time when they are physiologically programmed to be asleep. They are responsible for admitting new patients and managing emergency cases in the middle of night. I've always wondered how it's like to be on call. So to take self-torture to another level, I volunteered to be the only medical student who was on call in Ward 18B last Thursday night. It was an impromptu one - I didn't even have enough sleep the night before, or at least had some preparation - I was working in the ward and soon when I realised it was already 10 o'clock at night so I thought I would just stay in the ward. Truth to be told, medical students are not obliged to on call, but to have a taste of it, I stayed.

Hospitals have a different character at night, so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. I was lucky to have Dr Chan and Dr Wong together with me for the night. They are the most dedicated housemen I have seen. Starting from 8 o'clock at night phone calls kept coming in. A lot of new patients were admitted and both of them were on haywire. Hence I offered my help to clerk some of the new patients. It was exciting - to assess patients first hand - because normally when we clerk patients, we would have already know what the patients were presented with by looking at their charts. (Yes we play cheat like that) Clerking new patients give me a chance to implement my own management plans and deciding my differential diagnosis. Also good for me to practise my history taking skills. 

I also got to perform procedures I might not otherwise get to do during day time, for instance, blood taking. Now this is one of the things I have mastered in these few weeks. ....Okay la maybe not 100%. Success rate 80% la kay. Still need more practice. There were so much else in the ward to learn and do. The big shock was that the majority of the job was administrative rather than practical and academic. I learnt where the lab forms were kept, how to label the blood samples, and how to send bloods I had taken. Nonetheless, I enjoyed being the housemen's assistant by helping them in and out. Well, all because I would be happy to have medical students to help me out one day when I am a houseman? :)

It was about four or five in the morning when I started to get tired. I had been up all day. I opened my patient's charts and tried to read and digest the information in it. But my eyelids felt as though they were attached to lead weights. My body went into shutdown mode. Weren't there moments when you said to yourself, what have I got myself into here?

The next morning, ward rounds with the specialists and consultants started at 8 o'clock as usual in the morning. I cleaned myself up a little and contiued to join the rounds. After having my early morning caffeine fixed, I tried hard to pull myself together until the end of the day. So this was how my first on call experience was like - I was in the hospital for a total of 30 hours.

I was so tired that all I wanted to do was to crawl into my comfortable pyjamas, plopped into my bed and hit the sack.


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