All this has rather irritated the patients, who provide the aforementioned cases to the point of great anger. And one patient, such as the one I was examining today afternoon, to the verge of hypochondria. This poor man, fancy case of Peripheral Vascular Disease, had been examined by atleast 50 people since morning. He asked me if something was seriously wrong with him, was that why he was receiving so much attention.
I told him that all the people examining him were merely students getting some practice before the big exam day and that what he had was the condition we were likely to be asked in our examination. He looked a little flattered when I said this and a little put out by the fact that my batchmates were doctors-in-training and not doctors.
In the very first year of our clinical rotations, an exceptionally brilliant professor had clearly instructed us to let the patients continue to labour under the illusion of being treated by doctors. Or else they won't "co-operate with you guys if you tell them you're just students".
And while this may be true with some, I've found the advice of a more senior and more considerate doctor more useful. "Try to be as honest but as reassuring as you possibly can. Do not forget that that is live human flesh underneath your fingers." and "Every individual has the first right of control to his body, you as his physician only come a distant second."
I've always told the patients I deal with that I am a student and that I require their help for my study. And not one single person has ever refused. Except for I think a woman suffering from a bout of fever. But that's a lot more kindness than I wud show if I were ill.
Today, watching my batchmates auscultating chests while excitedly discussing murmurs made me wonder how we'll ever learn how to balance the affect of our excitement against the solemn bedside manner that we are expected to adopt.
I dont think I wud be right to be flippant, but I also dont think I'll ever manage to look cheerless. I wonder if people really prefer poker-faced, stoic doctors over smiling, cheerful ones becoz they believe their special conditions deserve more serious consideration.
I dont really believe I'll ever be able to pull the poker-face off. So I've given up trying. I think I'll likely end up being a doctor of the Munnabhai persuasion. :D