Now that my two week adventure at CHLA is over, I just wanted to reflect upon my experience at the hospital. Just to recap, my school has a partnership with the hospital that allows about 10 students to shadow through multiple units for two weeks in the Winter or Summer. I was able to visit the following units: Cardiothoracic ICU, Pediatric ICU, Medical Genetics, Hospital Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Surgery Clinic, Rehabilitation, and Surgery Operating Room.
Favorites and Highlights:
My favorite unit I visited was Hospital Medicine. I liked rounding with the attending and fellow because I was able to have a lot of interaction with the entire staff as well as the patients. The attending and fellow also took time to really teach me their physical examination skills. And although I will learn all of these skills in medical school anyway, it’s still nice to be exposed to it before entering school. I prefer hearing the process of something as simple as a physical exam–it makes my trip on rounds that much more informative.
The other unit I really liked was the Surgery Clinic, mainly because the surgeon I was with was very energetic. She was like a ray of sunshine. We got to see many patients in a short amount of time, and she just did such a phenomenal job of instilling confidence in her patients while being incredibly efficient with her time. I also got to see her when she visited the PICU earlier in the program, and got to hear how much she loves cardiothoracic surgery.
The unit I probably learned the most in was Medical Genetics. I thought it would be boring because instead of rounding on patients, they basically do consultation on patients who suspect there may be genetics at play in their disorders. And although we didn’t get to see a lot of patients, I got to learn a lot about specific patients as well as their specific potential disorders. I thought that was pretty cool because I would not have otherwise explored the topic of genetics.
Lastly, a major highlight throughout the program for me was just generally being able to understand or pick up on medical lingo. I have taken anatomy and physiology classes, and I was actually able to understand a fair amount of terminology just because I have a little bit of foundation. Also, because I volunteer at hospitals so often, I knew certain medical terms such as NPO, PRN, and all the different kinds of tubes, like NG tube and G tube. I thought that was absolutely cool and it really revealed how much I have learned over the last couple of months! I’m really glad to know and feel comfortable with the language of medicine, and that my vocabulary will continue to grow!
Lows and Expectations:
There weren’t many lows, but rather there were many things that were just different from my expectations. I thought I was going to be super psyched about the ICU, but I actually wasn’t! Even for the CTICU, I just wasn’t as excited as I thought it would be. I think partially it’s because we were in those units at the beginning of the two-weeks, and I don’t think the staff exactly knew we were coming or what to do because we were there… so maybe our experience was just less-than-stellar due to lack of preparation. Either way, it just seemed too calm when I visited. I was also told the units were calmer than usual the days we visited. But it was just so quiet. Unlike adult hospitals, there aren’t even patients asking for things like water because most of the patients are babies. The ICU was also just very sad because many of the patients are unconscious and intubated, so you can’t interact with them in any way. I don’t really think the ICU is a place that would match my personality.
The unit that ended up being very different from what I expected was Rehabilitation. When I see “Rehabilitation” I usually think of just Physical Therapy. However, when I walked into the Rehab unit, I found out that this unit was probably the most intense unit and that the teams were huge, and encompassed by more than just physical therapy. There were occupational therapists, speech therapists, dieticians, nutritionists, medical specialists, clinical workers, social workers, spiritual workers, psychiatrists, etc. It was so interdisciplinary. I also sat in on family and team conferences and learned a lot about the patients on the floor. It was just very intense and sad, but so informative at the same time. I feel like in another world, I would have been interested in Rehab, but in this world I’m not.
This experience was absolutely wonderful and it was totally work coming back to school early. It helped me clarify what I liked, what I didn’t, and also how to think about choosing a specialty (even though I literally have like 6 years until I have to commit, so I’m keeping an open mind). For example, I realized it was important to think about the environment and the team you work with, as well as thinking about how much patient interaction you want. This experience also showed me what exactly physicians do, and how different members of the team interact with each other. Even though I’m often at hospitals volunteering, I really only interact with nursing staff, and not the physician staff. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the direct and allied health staff at large because it takes a huge team to help a patient thrive.
Lastly, I’m just really proud of myself for getting through these two weeks–waking up early every single day before the sun rose, looking business casual every single day, and taking notes. I even committed myself to writing a blog post every single day I was there, trying to reflect upon my experiences each day. I’m really proud of myself for having been present for every moment I was there.
I’m grateful I finally has this opportunity. It really helped me realize how much I enjoyed being in a hospital setting and just seeing patients get better–and there are many ways to facilitate that! Being at CHLA has made me really excited to apply for medical school in a couple of years. Now I’m really confident that I know what I want and what I am working towards in my life.