Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rural Hospitals

I recently did a surgery rotation at an outlying hospital. It was labeled a "rural" hospital, but in reality it is only a 30-minute drive from where I live. It was a great experience. Without residents, I actually felt that I was a useful member of the team and in the OR actually got to do more than hold something that I can't see. The hospital only had something like 30 beds and I expected that any patient requiring more than a minimally complicated procedure would make the 30-minute hop to the giant academic center nearby. To my surprise lots of patients there would rather have their complicated multi-organ bowel surgery at the small 30-bed hospital (with only 4 ICU beds). Their main reasoning was that they felt comfortable in a place with familiar faces, where they knew the staff as friends or families of friends, something that they preferred over a giant maze of a hospital where you're known as a diagnosis or a room number. Also, I quickly figured out that the quality of care was the same (if not better, in some respects) than the giant academic center. True, you couldn't get a transplant or brain surgery, but for most procedures that general surgeons (or orthopedic surgeons) do, they're just as good. What's more is that things happen amazingly fast at this small hospital. There were several patients that came in with suspicious breast lumps and within a week had a partial mastectomy with pathology results in and an oncology appointment made. Scheduling several procedures across four different specialties is pretty much not possible in a large hospital. So, even though there's a lot of "outside hospital" bashing in academic centers, for the most part, they're just as good.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Checking email

Still checking my email for possible residency interviews. It's a very anxiety-provoking process. I check my email something like 20 times a day (I thought having a smart phone would be great, but it turns out to distract me more than help me). It's getting to be a crazy obsession. The plus side is that I've gotten two radiology interviews and four intern year interviews. It's somewhat reassuring, but it hasn't stopped the anxiety (and I did get one rejection from an intern year program).

One thing I'm really glad I managed to do was to take a large chunk of time off in December and January (prime interview season). With the number of interviews I hope to get (and an equivalent number of intern year interviews since I want to be in the same city for both), I will be traveling all the time. Our school only lets us take off one day per week of class for interviews and (by my calculations) I would have to break that rule to fit in the number of interviews I hope to get. Some classmates who don't have the time off are wondering how to deal with this dilemma. Since the med school administration always strictly adheres to their rules (and no amount of logic will let them change it), the best option is to either call in sick or ask your resident/attending and not bother with the administration. Nonetheless, the administration may find out and you'd have to deal with their fury.

Tips to any future medical student:
1. It's best to plow through 3rd year and free up 4th year for easy rotations/research/time off so that you could focus more on residency applications and interviews.
2. When it comes to needing time off, follow the old adage: It's better to take the time off and apologize afterwords than to ask for permission and not get it (because you won't get it).