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On Teaching

The following is something I wrote in 2009 while still a medical student:

Teaching is a hard thing. By teaching I don’t mean explaining or instructing. Take, for example, teaching basketball to someone. Telling someone the rules of the game is not, to me, teaching them how to play basketball. Explaining what the rules mean and how and when they apply is not teaching either. Teaching involves more. It is showing someone how to dribble the ball, demonstrating the correct form, and then helping the student develop these skills. Teaching is not merely conveying knowledge. It is imparting excellence — or, at the very least, competence in a particular area or field.

Teaching involves lifting a student up with compliments while simultaneously providing criticism that is at the same time constructive, painful, and humbling. Delivering these two — compliment and criticism — can be tricky. How does one find the right balance? It’s unfortunate that there is no formula. Each person is different. The combination of compliment and criticism that motivates and inspires one student could very well devastate and discourage another. Maybe the truly amazing teachers are able to read their students and expertly walk that fine line.

In the absence of truly amazing teachers, or truly amazing teachers with plenty of time to spend with us, a student must resort to other means of attaining competence. One alternative is learning from multiple teachers. Good teachers have different methods, techniques, and personalities. Each one can provide a different, yet helpful angle.

As this academic year inches closer and closer to an end, my mind seems to frequently wander to the future. One of the things I think about is my position as one of the chief residents next year. I hope that I will able to be a good teacher. I may even be willing to settle for an “ok” teacher too.

Maybe I am getting ahead of myself. Maybe I should just concentrate on learing as much as I can as a resident.

Teaching, I feel, is such a great responsibility. Especially when you are training people to take care of patients. The good thing is that I won’t bear this responsibility on my own. I will merely be a cog in a larger wheel; I will only be one part in a larger system. There will be plenty of seasoned attendings who will gladly teach the residents, and I am sure myself as well.

Teaching, I hope, is something that one can learn. And I hope that through the next year I will be able to develop my own teaching style. I’m sure I won’t be able to develop in a year — it’ll take time. But I do hope I am able to make a significant evolutionary leap in my development as an educator and teacher.

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Code Status

Every single patient that gets admitted to the hospital needs to be asked about their “code status.”

I usually ask about this in this way:

Now I have to ask this question to everyone I admit, regardless of what they are being admitted for.

In the event of an emergency, if your heart were to stop or beat ineffectively, if you are unable to breath on your own, what would you like us to do?

Do you want us to do everything to bring you back? This includes doing chest compressions, shocking your heart (if it is appropriate) and putting a tube down your throat to help you breathe with a machine.

Some patients who have been admitted frequently will be familiar with this question. They will immediately answer and ask that we either “do everything” or do nothing and just “let them go.”

Others stare blankly at you because they have never been forced to answer this question. They may look at their spouse. For those that hesitate I explain that there are risks to these attempts at resuscitation and that the older a patient is and the more medical problems they have, the less likely a full recovery should be expected.

I also allow them time to think about it and discuss it. I tell them that they don’t have to decide now. I also tell them that the decision they make is not final and “set in stone.” They can change their minds later. However, if they are unable to make a decision at this time, they will default to a “Full Code” status until they tell us otherwise.

Asking the question(s), regarding code status, is easy. Hearing the answer, on the other hand, can sometimes be difficult.

What about the senior citizen with medical comorbidities — who is unable to answer questions on their own due to the severity of their medical problems — whose family insists we do everything to keep them alive? It is not rare.

As physicians, we look at the patient from an admittedly detached point of view. Sometimes it is out of habit. Sometimes it is out of necessity.

It is difficult when we see our patient, who has poor functional status by any standard of measure and who would likely incur more harm than good by performing resuscitation measure in the event of cardiopulmonary arrest, carry a “full code” status in their chart because family is unable to come to terms with their state of health.

I do realize that there are many reasons a family will have for not rescinding a full code status. That is probably a topic for a whole different post.

This post, to me, seems more like a stream of consciousness post than a post that was well thought out and that had a point to prove or make. I apologize for that. It is just an issue/topic that has been on my mind recently.

For those of you who have had to carry this type of conversation regarding code status, how do you approach patients? How do you approach families? How do you discuss this issue regarding patients who are unlikely to have any benefit from resuscitation but whose families are adamant that all measure be taken?

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What’s a Chief Resident?

As I mentioned in the last post, I will be staying here at LLU for at least a year after residency officially ends. I will be staying on as one of the Internal Medicine Chief Residents.

So what does that mean?

I have found that it means different things to different people. In other residencies, the chief resident position or title is given to residents in their final year of training. And during that year as “chief resident” they are given additional tasks. From what I have seen, this is the case with other residencies like Emergency Medicine and ?many surgical specialties.

In Internal Medicine, the chief resident is someone who has already completed their residency. A quick search on google for “chief resident” brought me to the Duke Internal Medicine website. This is their description of what a chief resident is:

The Chief Resident position is the single largest investment in leadership made by the Department of Medicine, and the chiefs serve as key leaders for the program. Chiefs are selected for their exceptional clinical and leadership skills. The chiefs work as a team to provide leadership and support of the key missions of the residency program and function as key mentors and advocates for the residents. While each chief has separate responsibilities at their primary site (Duke, Durham VA Medical Center, Duke Regional Hospital, and VA Quality/Safety), the camaraderie among the chiefs sets a positive tone for the program and allows us to accomplish the many goals we set for the year. Notably, many former chief residents remain on faculty at Duke, serving in leadership positions throughout the health system. In recent years, the chief residents have been responsible for organizing the Stead Societies, reorganizing the noon conference series, instituting leadership training for JARs at the VA and evaluating patient flow on the general medicine services. In addition, the chiefs galvanize the competition for our annual Turkey Bowl, lead recruitment of new interns and have a tradition of providing entertainment at the annual DOM Holiday Party.

Chief residents are chosen during the SAR (PGY-3) year, and serve as chief residents with a faculty appointment during their PGY-5 year. Typically Chief Residents complete a fellowship or hospital medicine faculty year during the PGY-4 year, and return to their fellowship or hospital medicine position after completion of the chief year.

[emphasis added]
Source

They make it sound like quite the lofty position, don’t they? Apparently their chiefs serve in their PGY-5 year (5 years after graduation from medical school).

It would be important to note that there are differences with how my progarm does things. Internal Medicine (IM) Chief Residents here are selected during their PGY-3 year but proceed directly into the chief residency following the completion of residency. And I would hold off on claiming any “exceptional clinical and leadership skills” for myself. Also (not noted above), we will spend time rounding as the Attending Physician with the teaching service for a number of weeks throughout the year. But for the most part, the job responsibilities are similar across teh country for IM Chief Residents. In fact, the new group of LLU chief residents will be attending the APDIM Meeting in Houston, Tx in April. This meeting brings together leaders from IM residencies across the country (including program directors and chief reisdents) to sit down and learn about education and leadership.

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The Twists & Turns of Life

As I look at my blog it seems that I have not written an update since November of 2014. I do apologize for not being better in keeping up with writing. I am not sure who I am apologizing to, though, as I have no clue about who is actually still reading this.

A few days ago I came by to browse through my archives. It was a trip down memory lane, so to speak. As a blog, this one has been around for quite a while. My first post, although it was moved over here from a previous iteration, was written while I was still an undergraduate student back in the 2005-2006 academic year. I definitely did not forsee where I would be today.

Last year I remember blogging about fellowship applications. Even that did not go as planned. I started out the fellowship application season intent on joining the NRMP Match hoping for a spot in Nephrology. My plan was to puruse nephrology and then follow that up with a year of critical care training. I even interviewed at Henry Ford’s combined Nephrology/Critical Care program.

But life happens. Life sometimes gets in the way of — well, life.

As the deadline approached I was faced with many questions. I wrestled with these questions and in the end decided that it would be best for me to withdraw from the fellowship match. It was not an easy decision. And on the weekend prior to the deadline to finalize rank lists, I officially withdrew.

I have not ruled out a fellowship. But I had decided that at this time, it would be best for me to wait.

There were many questions that I faced in making this decision. I won’t share all of them. But some included quality of life, lifestyle, job satisfaction, and family.

After making my decision I spoke with our Internal Medicine Program Director. He was one of the faculty members who wrote a letter of recommendation for me. I shared my decision with him — that I had decided not to participate in the match. He asked if I had ever considered doing a year as a chief resident. He had no idea that I had. In fact, as an intern I had actually thought I wanted to one day be a chief resident. And so I answered that it was something that I had been interested in doing in the past.

Now, about 5 months away from the end of residency, I find myself as one of the future Internal Medicine Chief Residents.

Life is full of twists and turns. Sometimes, half the fun is watching where it takes you.

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Night Three

It’s now night 3 of 6. Six straight days — er, nights — covering the ICU patients here at one of the local county hospitals. Night 1 was great. Occasional calls here and there from nurses for little things that did not require much brain power. I am also working with an intern. He is covering the non-ICU patients. Night 1 went well for him too. I think I saw him watching tv shows on his iPad during the down time.

Night 2 was definitely busier for the both of us. For me, there was one patient who pretty much required my attention the entire night. And when I finally failed at placing a functional arterial line, I had to go call Anesthesia to help me place it. And then while they were at bedside, I asked if they could also intubate my patient as well. Later, as the early morning hours rolled around, I was about to place a central line. I had collected the consent and all the necessary materials. I had the ultrasound machine ready. However, the patient was still moving around so I asked that the sedation be turned up and I would return shortly.

I never did return. Because while I was waiting for increased sedation, I got another call for a patient on the other side of the ICU. Apparently they were having non-convulsive seizures through much of the night and the EEG tech was notifying us. Six in the morning. The patient had already been well loaded with dilantin, a type of anti-seizure medication the night before. However, despite the dilantin, the seizures continued. I considered adding another medication at a constant infusion via IV. The caveat, though, is that a constant infusion of versed (the medication I was considering) requires a patient to be intubated because it can depress the respiratory function.

I did not want to make that decision alone, though. So I paged the on-call neurologist. Unable to get a response, I finally paged the neurologist who would come on call at 8 AM. She advised against the versed infusion and suggested a different regimen. By the time this was sorted out, the day teams had already began showing up and I signed out the events of the night to them.

Tonight I am writing this on night 3. The call team admitted at least one very sick, ICU patient. At this point we have come up with a plan and we will continue to see how the patient does over the course of the night.

While I generally dislike working nights, there are some things that are nice.

I just have to focus on those niceties for another 3 nights.

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County Life

This month is my first of two months rotating at one of the local county medical centers. It is very different than either of the other two hospitals in which we find ourselves.

Traditionally it has been called our “senior capstone” experience — acting as the senior resident at the county.

The patient population is diverse. Sick patients walking daily with strange diagnoses.

At night, we find ourselves mostly on our own covering the ICU patients.

During intern year, my first rotation was here at County.

It is very strange to find myself back, now in the senior resident position.

They say time flies. I am counting on it.

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Detroit

Just flew back from Detroit last week after a fellowship interview.

Surprisingly there were no direct flights from ONT (Ontario, CA) or LAX (Los Angeles, CA) to Detroit.

The weather was decent, aside from a half-hour thunderstorm that was accompanied with storm warnings on the local news.

The program was amazing. The faculty seemed welcoming and fellows had positive things to say about their program.

I’ll write more about the process and my thoughts as time goes by — most likely after the match.