The pros and cons of being an excellent teaching case

Medical students around patient in hospital room.

I love being the centre of attention!

I must be a medical marvel. Sounds a little grandiose, I realize, but whenever I have been in hospital, I have proven myself to be an excellent teaching case. Large groups of medical students and residents and medical fellows flock to me because I am such an interesting specimen.

As a psychologist, I was once “the student” in a professional training program, so I appreciate the importance of teaching cases. If a student can learn from my complex medical condition, I am pleased to make myself available. I often feel that the care I receive when a student is involved is as good as or better than that I receive from the physician alone–no offence to my doctors, who are incredible caregivers–because a student cannot take the shortcuts that come with experience. Students’ assessments are often very, very thorough, followed by review of their findings with their mentor. Then both physician and student return to share their impressions and I benefit from everyone’s insights and expertise.

Psychology training focuses on developing relationships, for obvious reasons. Really, bedside manner is what psychologists do. If clients don’t take to me, I may not be the one to help them, and I understand their seeking someone else; I would do the same. So it makes sense that bedside manner is important to me and the first thing I notice in any doctor. There are only a few student physicians I have really had difficulty with: one who was not true to her word, and another who could not address me using my first name, as I had requested. I may be married but I am not “Mrs.”. (The title just doesn’t resonate with many lesbians, married or not.)

And sometimes, since I am prone to anxiety, the physician-in-training will say something that will make me worry. I have been told that my liver is cirrhotic—it is not—and that I am in kidney failure—when I have not been—and that I must have leukemia—long before I did.    (Okay, maybe that last one was on to something.) To be fair to these students, in my panic I disagree with their diagnoses defensively, so I can’t blame them for insisting they are right. I have learned to review these concerns with my core physicians, and am reassured when I do.

It’s nice being the centre of attention, but sometimes I wish I weren’t. What if I’m not feeling well or I’m just dozing off when the troops arrive? When I become impatient or frustrated with a student, I remind myself that I hope to live long enough for my current physicians to have children or take a sabbatical or even retire. Then their underlings will have to assume my care. I’d better do all I can to ready those docs-in-training for the next generation of sickies, whether I’m still around to be their patient or not. So I take a few deep breaths and do my best to hide any discontent. Sometimes I’m successful but sometimes, I’m sure, I’m not. My deepest apologies for those times. It’s just exhausting to be so popular sometimes.

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4 thoughts on “The pros and cons of being an excellent teaching case

  1. If you become impatient or frustrated, doesn’t that just make you a more interesting teaching case? I think you should consider any bad moods a gift to the students.

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