Help from unexpected places


Like most of us who go into medicine, I was always one of the top students in my high school (academically). Being quite a middle-class school, we had a mix of students from different socioeconomic classes and backgrounds. We had the 'elites' who thought studying was beneath them, we had those for whom school was a refuge from quite a traumatic household. And we had the drop-outs, the drug abusers, the self-harmers. It was from this last category from whom I learned a humbling lessons during medical school. 


It was a busy Thursday afternoon in ED. I was in the middle of taking a history from an elderly man brought in with suspected pneumonia, when she walked in. I hardly recognised her without her many piercings. Abby was looking so much healthier than the skinny girl who dropped out of school in year 9. She busily went about her nursing duties, checking vitals, ensuring the patient was comfortable and prepping the medications listed on the med chart. Still awestruck (half wondering if this could be the same girl!), I begin to present the case to my registrar. While Abby goes about her job, so professionally and with such certainty, I realise that between us, she really is the person doing more for the patient. Besides recounting a story to a person who can do something, what was I really offering the patient? If I was not there, business would have continued as usual. As a medical student, this thought haunts us all at some stage. 

The practical knowledge Abby had at that very moment far outweighed mine. Later on, while having difficulties attempting to insert a cannula (under the supervision of the reg), it was Abby who helped me select the best vein, showed me how to better apply the tourniquet, and how to apply the dressings. It was such a humbling experience to realise that help can come from the most unexpected of places.


Early on in our careers as doctors we really are at the bottom of the experience ladder. While we are tasked with the mammoth task of making the life-saving decisions, there is a whole team of people around us, who make that possible. This is something we must never take for granted.