I spent last Wednesday night in the hospital. Don’t worry though Mom, it was for class. All ten of us in the medical observation seminar had to complete a 12-hour shift with a doctor or nurse in the hospital at La Católica, and this week it was my turn. I followed a doctor, we’ll call him Dr. Gonzales, for his weekly night shift in the intermedio- the place where the hospital treats patients that don’t need a specialist after the ER. We reviewed all of the patients in the unit with the doctor on duty, and introduced ourselves to the 4 that would be under Dr. Gonzales’s care. After that, we proceeded to the most important part of the night, ordering food. Wanting to fit in, I told the doctor placing the order to get me the same thing that everybody else was getting. Next, Dr. Gonzales and I did a more thorough status check of the patients under his care. By the time we finished, the food had arrived. Dinner turned out to be a massive burger covered with a whole ensemble of condiments and deliciousness. I could get used to this I thought as Dr. Gonzales, the other doctors, residents and I sat around eating, schmoozing and learning a little bit about each other’s cultures.
Then we got a call to see if we had an empty bed for a patient coming from the ER. Dr. Gonzales and I went down to talk to the sixty five year old man, and he gave his approval to have the patient brought to our unit. Once there, I sat in on another doctor (we’ll call her Dr. Martinez) as she interviewed the man for over half an hour, getting to know his whole medical history and preparing a treatment plan. One thing I found particularly interesting was that not only did Dr. Martinez ask the patient if he smoked, but she asked his daughter (about 35 years old) if she did as well. When the daughter replied in the affirmative, Dr. Martinez lectured the both of them for over five minutes on the dangers and advised them to stop as soon as possible. Chileans smoke much more than Americans and I was happy to see the doctor doing her part to raise awareness about the health risks.
And that was the most fun of the night. I did another round of the patients with Dr. Gonzales, filled out some paperwork, talked a little bit about how he got to where he is and why he chose to be an internist, and that was it. With all of the patients stable and sleeping at 3:00 a.m., we decided to follow suit. He led me to an adjacent building with open beds interns and returned to the intermedio, where there are much fewer and reserved for the doctors. I woke up a couple hours later to meet up with him as he briefed the new shift on all of the patients.
And just like that, the medical observations- one of the main reasons I chose IES Santiago- ended. In my sleep-deprived state I reflected on my experiences and became a little disappointed that I hadn’t had an epiphany about my future career. Coming in I wanted to reaffirm my desire to be a doctor and hopefully obtain a better idea about a specialty. Instead, I’m starting to question whether it is the right career for me. I saw several specialties such as surgery preparation, cardiology, kinesiology, cardiology lab and endoscopy lab, but I didn’t leave any of them saying “this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”. I know that I need to be 100% sure before starting medical school and I haven’t had that epiphany yet. Another huge factor to consider is time: 1) am I ready to spend the next 10 years of my life studying before I get to the position that I would want to be in (a specialized doctor) and 2) will I be able to handle the 80+ hour, demanding work weeks that come with the position. Dr. Gonzales, being an internist in a hospital, works the night shift on a weekly basis in addition to his normally heavy schedule. I know I could eventually get used to the long hours, but do I want to? These are things that I knew about before, but appreciate much more after living through it. I’ll keep searching for that realization, and hopefully I’ll find it soon because I only have a year and a half left before I graduate! So weird.