Medical Communication: A Pleasant Surprise

March 7, 2013 § 2 Comments

I began writing this on September 7th, after our first lecture in Medical Communication. In a later post, I mentioned the draft and promised that I would post it as soon as I was finished writing it. As could have been predicted, I never found the time. Such is the case in med school. You never have time for the things you mean to do, only those that you need to do.

Medical Communication has quickly become one of my favorite classes. Each week we have been presented with a new theme: Hypnosis and Suggestive Medicine, Somatisation and Hypochondriasis, Communication with Sick Children, and finally, today’s topic, Breaking Bad News and Aggressive Patients. I feel really lucky that such lectures are a part of the curriculum, even at such an early stage. We may not be doctors for another 5 or so years, but it’s not too early to start thinking like one.

That said, here is the entry I began writing on February 7th:

universe blackboard

There are times that I get a rush of true purpose through my body, like all the planetary forms of the galaxy contained inside of me are aligned – and I know that I am in the right place.

Those occasions are not very common, but they are not necessarily rare either. They may not happen during seminars on the biochemistry of carbohydrates or a biophysics lecture on electrical circuits, but they happen. I am interested in everything we are learning – though it could even be just the actual process of learning that I enjoy – however, my passions for these newly learned topics vary greatly.

This morning began with our first Medical Communication lecture at 8:00. I was running late, so Skjalg and I had to speed walk to the lecture hall located in the gynecology department of one of the university’s hospitals, conveniently located a 10-15 minute walk from our apartment. We arrived flushed and out of breath, to a half full hall and an old radio broadcast playing through the speakers. The department in charge of our schedules has been quite unclear about the logistics of most of our elective courses. For this specific class, we have received two emails this week offering contradictory information: the first saying that practicals would begin in April and that there were only lectures until then and the other saying (quite vaguely) that there would be no classes until April. The lack of clarity of their part and the improbability of medical students getting up to go to an 8:00 lecture that they may or may not need to go to are most likely the driving forces behind the fact that only about half of the 250 freshman students were there.

The lecture hall is a modernized anatomical theatre. Here are some shots I snuck during yesterday’s Medical Professionalism lecture. (Attendance was taken at this one, so I believe everyone was there.)

MP Lecture 2MP lecture

I didn’t know what to expect of the lecture. We are already taking a medical sociology class, so it couldn’t have been communication in the sociological sense. I kept an open mind though, reminding myself of an interview I read with a former-student stayed at Semmelweis after graduating to teach his own anatomy class. In the interview he said (and I am paraphrasing here), “You will hear many people complain about the classes, saying things like ‘we won’t even need this’ or ‘why do we even have to learn this’. Don’t pay them any attention. I think the school knows better than you, a first year student, which curriculum will best prepares the students for their futures as doctors”. I am so thankful I listened because the lecture this morning was one of the best lectures I have ever attended in my life.

Why? Mainly the lecturer. He was so passionate about medicine, life and human behavior and interactions. His presentation was organized and engaging, and even included clips from different movies, comic strips and jokes to illustrate his points. The part of his lecture that impacted me the most, was this clip from Patch Adams (the clip says it all):

Back to today. We had the same lecturer again this morning. He started by saying, “What a beautiful cloudy day in Budapest! But you know, behind the clouds, the sun in still shining!”

I don’t know the curriculum of medical schools in other countries, but if they include such courses, then I have to say that I am really happy that they do. Perspective and awareness are such important tools in medicine and they are often overlooked. It really is a testament to the quality of education that we are getting here that they acknowledge the importance of medical communication and begin exposing us to it at such an early point. Unfortunately, there were only about 50 out of the 250 first year English students who showed up this morning. I’m not sure how far the message is reaching in that case, but I’m sure it will return to us in practice.

Enough blogging for now! Skjalg and I are spending our 4 hour break between biochemistry lecture and chemotaxis lecture at Costa Coffee. After class we plan on hitting the gym for some head-defogging cardio and then home to squeeze in a couple of hours of studying before bedtime.

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§ 2 Responses to Medical Communication: A Pleasant Surprise

  • grandpa Antonio says:

    I think in the US we refer to medical communications as “good bedside manners”. The medical establishement has become very conscious that most US doctors have zero ” beside communication ability”. They got zero training in it. The students that missed your lectures probably harbor the attitude that they only need learn the procedures to treat patients and wait for healing to happen. They see no need to communicate with that sick subject in that bed, They fail to appreciate that in most instances the doctor initiates the process, but it is the patients that must have the informaiton and the will to heal themselves.

    I remember Mrs. Petranker an elderly German Jewish lady that i assisted with her claim for injuries after a a major auto accident. She was taken to the hospital in Truckee apparently unconscious, One of the two doctors who came to examine her said words to the effect: ‘ My God! This lady has fractures to 80% of her body – she is as good as dead” At that point Mrs. Petranker found her consciousness hovering over the operating theatre and looking down on her body and the two doctors, and in her demanding and feisty way she heard herself say: “You stupid bastards. I am not dead – get to work ” .She told me she got very frustrated because they did not seem to hear her. I met her weeks after she left the hospital and was back in Daly CIty. She made quite a good recovery, even though she suffered some permanent loss of movement. She was not very popular with the nurse and doctors at Truckee Hospital because she was very demanding. I am convinced that it was her strenght of will and assertiveness that kept her alive. Which tells me that difficult patients may quite often be the ones with the will to live. Above all young doctors must be forwarned that patients who are unconscious or in a coma can hear you; and your negative comments can destroy their will to live.

  • […] The first 7 weeks of this course was also lectures and our first practical began today. I’ve praised Medical Communication before (and even told my mom it was my favorite class) and was therefore excited to see that our professor […]

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