Tag Archives: Residency

In which I try not to overthink blogging and share some funny stories

I had a few stories I wanted to share, and I resisted writing on here until they reached some sort of critical mass. I felt a little weird suddenly posting over and over again. I think getting into ob/gyn residency has jazzed me up in a way that cannot be ignored. I’m trying to look at it as a rejuvenation of my spirit for blogging and medicine, and not overthink what it meant about my spirit and confidence over the last two years. Anyhooooo….

Plus, I have worked ob/gyn clinic for two straight blocks recently, simply a complete coincidence, because neither of these two blocks are going to count at my new site. Ob/gyn just lends itself to a bunch of hilarious stories. I have a serious delve-into-the-evidence-because-something-is-stuck-in-my-craw kind of post a brewin’, but I won’t mix that in with the fun stuff from today.

Needless to say, no names are used, no specific descriptors are used (except for tattoos, I guess), not all stories are recent, and details are bent to obscure the innocent. None of these are my real patients, they are all stories about my cousin Susan’s adventures in health care, rewritten as my own patients to make it easier. And, needless to say, this is ob/gyn related stuff, so if discussion of private parts and fluids gets you discombobulated, you may want to go look at some lolcatz or something.

Story # 1

A patient and her husband were explaining a recent trip to the patient’s gynecologist (I was seeing her as a family practice resident). She was having an irritation down below. Her husband’s helpful explanation of the diagnosis: “My sperm, when it comes out, it’s so hot it BURNS her.” Emphasis emphatically his. I bit down a giggle and asked, “Sir, if this isn’t too personal, may I ask if your sperm has ever touched your own skin? Say, on your hand? It didn’t burn you, right? I don’t think that’s the issue here.”

Story # 2

This one is an in-the-biz special.

Electronic fetal monitor

Electronic fetal monitor

Heard on the labor floor: “I know! The pink one is for the girls, and the blue one is for the boys, right?” I kind of thought the pastel colored binary gender straps were a bit silly, but I didn’t think they’d be confusing. Maybe I should have.

(For those not in the birth biz, that is an external fetal monitor. Both of those get used on everybody, regardless of the gender of the in-utero passenger.)

Story # 3

Maybe I should have realized it could be confusing or important to patients. At a two week postpartum follow up, a mother’s biggest complaint: “Everyone keeps getting him confused with a girl.” I eyed the 13 day old wrinkled baby in a blue hat, blue clothes, blue car seat covered with a blue blanket suspiciously as he slept in a very non-gender specific way. “I don’t think he’s very worried about that right now.” What I wanted to say was, “Now I think it’s a bit early to start imposing roles on it, don’t you?” in my best Graham Chapman voice, but I restrained myself.

Story # 4

I see a lot of interesting tattoos in my line of work. I have two tattoos, and I am not judging people who have them. In fact, having a tattoo in certain age groups is actually more common that not having one. Some of the people I hung out with when I was younger had some highly questionable tattoos. A friend of mine dated someone who had a tattoo on his leg of a manatee with an erection. That was only one of the list of questions I had about her choice of this guy, but hey, poor dating choices happen to the best of us.

I was triaging a young woman in labor, and when I raised her gown to attach the eternal fetal monitors (as seen above) to her burgeoning belly, I saw two dolphins dancing on either side of her navel. I said “Oh, look! Dolphins!” Then I glanced at the cursive writing underneath her navel. It read “Wet Pussy”. And they say the kids aren’t learning cursive these days. Wait, maybe that’s a good thing for her offspring.

Not judging. Not judging.

I also saw “Respect My Mind” tattooed on a patient’s hand, which I kind of liked. It was next to a 305, which is our area code here in Miami-Dade, for the reader who is not a local, or isn’t familiar with Pitbull. (Ironically, also my birthday. OG, here. Ironic because the longest I’ve ever listened to the song was just now to copy the link.) It’s a common tattoo, on that always makes me sarcastically wonder if they’re afraid they’ll forget the area code. Maybe they just want to remember my birthday. If she did forget the area code, I’d have trouble respecting her mind. Or, I would at least try to figure out why she wasn’t oriented.

I saw “Most Hated”, which I kind of didn’t like. Well, it made me wonder about the history and self esteem of the patient. It also reminded me of the brother of a tattoo artist in a city I lived in years ago, a brother who was notorious for being a conceited, inebriated, loud, omnipresent nuisance. He had the nickname of “the Hated Joe Schmo”. Even though he was covered with tattoos, courtesy of his super cool brother, I don’t think he had “Most Hated”. It would have been appropriate.

I saw “Live Fast Die Pretty” on someone’s arm. That made me giggle.

Story #5

Not really a funny story, but something I wanted to share. I was wrapping up my ob/gyn rotation, and one of the nursing students who was also at the site told me that she would want to go to me as an obstetrician if she was ever pregnant. I am always grateful and pretty much floored when someone from inside the system tells me that. We were working with several wonderful obstetricians at the time. I don’t think it was a commentary against them. I don’t mean to get all sappy, but I think I love it so much, it really shows when I am talking to a patient. I also think it is uncommon for someone to be a mother, a patient, and frankly an adult with real world problems before becoming a physician. I am not knocking my younger peers. They say they don’t know how I do it as a mom. I don’t know how they do it as a young adult coming of age. I think my empathy comes from a different place than some physicians. Even physicians who are parents often became parents second, and were navigating the medical side of pregnancy and birth with a much greater ease and insider perspective when they went through it.

Should I throw in another story of hot jizz to wrap this up? I am fresh out, at this time. Let’s see if this newly renewed excitement carries through to me finishing the post about epidurals and informed consent, too.

Until then, live fast and die pretty.

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Blogger once thought extinct, spotted!

I had a fun experience recently. We have medical students rotate through our family medicine clinic. We’ve had some great students recently, and I got along great with one in particular. She was waiting to find out if and where she matched in ob/gyn at the time. She since found out she matched in New England, and I think she’s happy, but bracing for the cold! I’m so happy for her.

On the last day she was at our site, she and I were saying our goodbyes. I get to work with a lot of medical students, but she and I had gotten a bit closer than most. I wished her luck in the upcoming match, which was a bit bittersweet for me, considering my crappy match experience. She said, “Now that the rotation is over, I have a confession to make.” I was really curious – I couldn’t imagine what it could be. “I used to read your blog all the time, when I was planning on going to medical school.”

I laughed and blushed, and was really surprised. I have only been “spotted” twice before, and both of those times were years ago, when I was still blogging regularly, once at a Medical Students for Choice conference, and once at a Lamaze Conference. I was planning on writing about her spotting me on here a bit earlier, but I had a little excitement in my life in between. Hope you understand.

I really like to work with medical students. I hope we get to interact with medical students at the new residency. I am pretty sure we will. I hope to incorporate teaching into my practice even after I am done with my residency. It reinforces material, and I end up learning just as much if not more.

Oh, and Happy Doctor’s Day, everybody!

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Floating

backyardAlmost seven years ago, I was sitting in a dive bar* with some friends from college. We had moved to different cities after our various undergraduate experiences, and rarely got to see each other. I sat across from them and another mutual friend and coasted on bliss. I relished the comfort and joy of having beer in a bar playing punk music with people who shared so many touchstones with me – concerts, people, places, parties. People with whom I could talk in shorthand. I felt connected in a way I hadn’t in years, years that seemed brimming with pregnancy, parenthood, divorce, work, classes, exams, but not a lot of effortless connection.

But, underlying that social happiness was a buzz of elation because I had just found out that I got accepted into medical school. It was an unexpected, against the odds, fantastic dream fulfilling surprise. I applied late in the application cycle, and had to fight to even get my application considered. I was told to retake the MCAT due to the scores being just too stale to count, even though it was safely within range to be considered. I crammed for the exam in 6 weeks. I hadn’t had a physics class in 5 years. I somehow even improved my score, but was told the application window had just closed. I begged my plight to the young chipper voice at the other side of the phone line who told me just to wait until the next cycle, and I would surely be invited to interview. “Please,” I pleaded. “I’m 34.” I got the interview. I brought the application administrative staff home baked cookies. No joke. And I make awesome cookies.

So, I sat there in the bar with a stupid grin on my face, and I was hyper aware of everything. The delicious beer, the laughter, the music, the horrible overpriced art in the decor, and the strange elation in my chest of a scary dream coming true at that brief, delicious moment in time that the dream is true, but isn’t reality yet. Medical school was just a bunch of fantasy and hopes, not grueling hours of studying and gross anatomy. I was able to spend a night out with my friends on a Saturday still, without the endless string of Monday exams to come for the two years. I promised myself to hold on to that moment, and to never take for granted how wonderful it was to have a dream come true.

Today, I am sitting in my back yard. I recently moved. My house is finally mostly settled. I have a lovely little spot just outside my kitchen on my tiny patio under the awning, with my fragrant potted rosemary bush and subtle wind chimes. The breeze still has a touch of that gorgeous March coolness to it that lingers every year in Miami just a few weeks longer than my cranky cynical mind thinks it should. There are birds and butterflies and bustling neighbors in the background. I have things to do – dishes, laundry, shopping, even more unpacking, but I have time. I don’t have the kids this part of spring break. I am on a light outpatient rotation. I was able to sleep in. I took a deep swig of my coffee and closed my eyes, and felt the breeze. I felt elated. Yes, it’s wonderful to relish these last lovely mornings before Miami gets unbearably hot and muggy. But, I have an underlying elation in my chest.

I got accepted into a brand new obstetrics and gynecology residency. I found out during the shortest and most wonderful interview of my life this Friday afternoon. I am more than halfway through my second year of a family practice residency. I applied to a very geographically limited number of obstetrics programs when I was finishing medical school. I interviewed at several, but didn’t match at any. There’s only one program within 500 miles of where I live and share custody of my boys. The next year, I applied again, and got invited to more interviews. These interviews were at wonderful programs in places where I didn’t know a living soul, like Macon Georgia and West Virginia. In the meantime, I was struggling through 80 hour workweeks that included 6 night shifts in a row. I rarely saw my kids. I rarely saw my friends. I rarely saw daylight. I slowly cancelled all of my out of town interviews, one at a time, as they approached, because I couldn’t see surviving an intern year in an obstetrics and gynecology residency, which would be more grueling than the one I was in, and not have the family support I did here. I also wasn’t willing to move and leave my boys behind. Again, I interviewed at the only local obstetrics and gynecology program. Again, I didn’t match there.

I worked through my second year of family practice residency this year without thinking of reapplying to obstetrics. A new program opened up in Kissimmee, which is about 4 hours north of here, and my oldest son said he wouldn’t move with me if I applied and got in there. This is the first time he said he wouldn’t even go. The interview season came and went, merely a wistful blip on my radar. The osteopathic match drifted by, and the allopathic match started releasing results this week.

Except, I just found out a week ago that a new program got approved. I have heard rumors and rumbles of new at least six new obstetrics programs being opened for over seven years of medical school, fellowship and residency, and none of them had materialized. I never heard a whisper about this program. What’s even more bizarre, I had done a 4th year rotation with the director of obstetrics there, and she must not have known of the possibility yet, and I just finished a four week rotation in their family medicine department with one of their medical directors, who didn’t mention it. Oh, and one more thing. THIS SITE IS LESS THAN A MILE FROM MY HOUSE.

After a flurry of emails, research and phone calls on my part, I procured a phone interview with the new obstetrics residency director and graduate medical education director. It was a five minute interview with two of the nicest people I’ve ever known for five minutes. They had my CV. They had been told about me by the director of obstetrics at the site, by the clinical education director at my medical school, and others. They wanted me, I wanted them, and the match already happened, so they could recruit me directly.

I was ecstatic. My dream came true, again. In fact, my dream from that night 7 years ago included my eventually becoming an obstetrician. That was the promised land at the end of my reverie that night at the bar. It was becoming harder and hard to access that place of joy and thankfulness when I struggled as a family practice resident. Part of the dream had not materialized. I hated to say “Sob, woe is me! I’m going to be a family practice physician!” and realized how stupid and obliviously privileged and ungrateful that sounded.

But today, the dream is realized. It’s still sinking in. And I still have a day well rested and quiet to sit and relish in the fantasy of getting my dream job.

“My goal in life is to unite my avocation with my vocation,
As my two eyes make one in sight.” – Robert Frost

So, one more cup of coffee. One more pause before I get to the dishes in the sink. Because this is the feeling I will be tapping into when I’m exhausted on the labor floor, when I’m struggling with learning a new surgery, when my kids and I are fighting because I’m exhausted and they are resentful because I don’t seem to have quality or quantity time with them. The breeze, the calm, the sounds, and the elation.

*I love that when I googled the name of the bar, a box popped up with information about the hormone prolactin.

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Things that brighten my night

It’s been a long day. I came home feeling like a not-good-enough resident, mother, woman, housekeeper, dog owner, driver, you name it.  I have loved ones in the hospital in other states. I have friends hurting in other states that I wish I could help, or at least hug. I haven’t bought one present. I haven’t put up a tree.

I shared  this old post about things  that brighten my day with one such friend. Then, I let go for a moment. I let my teen son sleep on the couch, I left the dishes, the bills, the evaluations and logs, the laundry, and I stepped onto my back patio. I plugged in the Christmas lights my sons and I put up yesterday. I felt the cool breeze, listened to it rustle through the palms, and took in the twinkling lights and the full moon.

patio lights

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The past, present and future

Howdy, blogland. Long time no see. Oh, and happy Mother’s Day.

It’s been a rough string of months. I had personal changes, a 40th birthday, a malignant rotation, a psoriatic arthritis flare, the stinking IRS is holding my refund for some sort of random review, a struggle with the black dog, and now I topped it off with a nasty viral infection that doesn’t want to leave my lungs.

But, things are looking up. Or, I have to start looking at the positive. I got my schedule for next year. Most rotations, I will be doing two days a week of clinic, which I am really looking forward to. I have zero nights, zero swing shift for the year. I’ll get to do some rotations I am looking forward to, like radiology (I hope I get to focus a lot on ultrasound) and hematology. I also will get to do a full four week block of clinic and one block in a community health center, so I’ll get my share of outpatient medicine. Hooray! I also have a block of NICU and a block of obstetrics, among other hospital based blocks.

I went to a social event with a lot of members of the local natural birth community, and everyone seems to be eager to work with me in the future. I see a lot of possibilities. I have always kept myself motivated by imagining what my future would look like. I am imagining a future with a practice in a freestanding birth center, doing women’s health, prenatals, family planning, lactation medicine, pediatrics, and possibly even some births. One of the local obstetricians said she would welcome me into her solo practice to see her clinic patients. This may be a more compatible future than doing hysterectomies and cesareans.

So, the future is bright. I just have to free myself from the gloom of the recent past.

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Overheard at work

1. Two elevator repairmen in the lobby this morning: “I don’t know how those Seaman systems work.” I snickered, because I am really mature.

2. A medical student: “What’s water boarding?” I overreacted. “Are you SERIOUS? You have never heard of waterboarding?!” I gave her a two minute synopsis on so-called advanced interrogation techniques vs. torture, the Geneva convention.

3. A patient: “Someone is taking medications out of my purse!” I rocked this one. No ableism intended, but I am known as the “crazy whisperer” at my site. I didn’t come up with that name. A lot of practitioners / caregivers take an adversarial communication style with patients that are combative, delusional, or simply question or want to refuse treatments. I try as hard as I can to meet them where they are. The patient is intermittently in florid psychosis, is paranoid, and is refusing treatments, tests, meds and food. She is sick, in many ways, and some of her meds can literally be a matter of life and death. I had a good, long conversation with her. I am going to let her use her home inhaler if she informs us, instead of confiscating it and making respiratory document every administration. I am ordering sealed cans of dietary supplements to her bedside to accommodate her fear of “dirty hands” contaminating her food. I told her that her 1:1 sitter will help keep track of her belongings, trying to establish trust with her sitter and to help her feel more secure. I let her know some of her meds are refuseable, even though she has been involuntary committed and deemed confused and inappropriate. I find that when patients feel like the have some respect and control, they are more secure and cooperative. She immediately agreed to her most critical meds, and is much more calm.

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I know what I’m going to be when I grow up

I am going to be a family practice physician.

 

I have mixed feelings about this. I think I will make the best of it, and I can have a rewarding (and hopefully successful) career in family medicine. I can still do a lot of women’s health, and even possibly some obstetric care of sorts.

 

Anyway, here’s to the future.

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Should I go to medical school? An advice column.

Check out my post over at Mothers in Medicine:

Should I go to medical school?

It is an answer to a series of emails I have received over time asking me advice about the whole single parent medical school doctor used to be in the natural birth community thing.

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I spoke too soon

So, right when I convinced myself that I would be better off in family medicine, I got an invitation to interview at my local ob/gyn residency. I think the delighted yelp I let out when I opened the email made it pretty clear that all of that self-convincing and denial didn’t work 100%.

Here we go again. Wish me luck!

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Breaking the silence

I am happily coming down off the high of presenting at the Medical Students for Choice annual conference – I was part of a fantastic panel on Protecting Choice in Birth. I felt honored to be sharing the table with some brilliant people – two wonderful ob/gyns, two reproductive justice lawyers, and little old me. We talked about the legal and ethical underpinnings of patients’ rights and choice in birth: site of birth (e.g. out of hospital birth), VBAC, even use of a doula or refusal of certain interventions.

It was a wonderful experience. The director of MS4C told us the response was so overwhelming that the conference was buzzing about our panel, and we are definitely invited to return. I learned a lot from my co-panelists, and loved the enthusiastic response from the audience. One sweet medical student literally had his jaw agape when Farah Diaz-Tello, from the National Association for Pregnant Women, described a woman who had her baby taken away and put in foster care for simply wanting to postpone signing a blanket consent for any intervention or procedure during her labor and delivery. She had a healthy, spontaneous vaginal delivery with no complications during her SECOND psych consult (after the first psychiatrist deemed she was clearly mentally competent and allowed to refuse consenting to an unnecessary hypothetical cesarean), and apparently her six year old is still not in her care due to the red tape surrounding her case. Jaw dropping, indeed.

I talked about my journey, including being a patient, mother, midwifery student, doula and research fellow before becoming a doctor. I discussed the hostile-to-patient-autonomy atmosphere in South Florida, my fellowship research on labor interventions, and how to present risk to patients.

I almost burst into tears when my co-panelist, the lovely and dynamic Dr. Hanson, showed pictures of twins and breech births she has delivered all over the world. I did end up tearing up during lunch, not just because birth is moving and emotional, but because I am slowly accepting that I will most likely never be doing these difficult deliveries, and my wonderful copanelists innocently asked me about my residency plans. I may not be doing deliveries at all.

I got a decent amount of invitations to obstetrics residency programs. I am slowly canceling them, one by one. I simply cannot justify moving my two boys to a city where I don’t know anybody, then disappearing to work my ass off 80 hours a week at all times of day or night. I also don’t want to put them in public schools in the Deep South. When I got divorced during my third year of medical school I knew that would mean facing residency as a single mom. The divorce was worth it, but now that I have experienced the reality of how hard internship is, even with significant family support in my home town, I had to reconsider my options.

I will most likely be pursuing a family practice residency at a local residency program, probably at the hospital where I am doing my internship. Yes, obstetrics can fall under the family practice umbrella, but I would be the first family practitioner to get hospital privileges in the greater Miami area in recent or remote history. In other words, the chances of that happening falls between not likely and impossible. Yes, not even if I do an obstetrics fellowship, which would involve leaving town for a year. It’s just not the standard of care here, even if it’s normal in other parts of the country. And my custody arrangement stipulates that I practice here after training. So, even if I move for residency, I would have to uproot again and come back.

I can still do women’s health. I can still do prenatals. I can do lactation medicine, including the pediatrics portion. I can even be the medical director of a local freestanding birth center, just not their backup surgeon. Which, honestly, was never a huge draw for me. I want to be at the normal pregnancies, not a back up for the ones that go wrong. I can do family planning. I can still do academics, including medical ethics, which is an interest of mine.

So, most of the time I am ok with this. Most of the time. I have a lot to be happy about. I have great kids, good family support, a supportive director of my residency program, relatively good health, friends, a cute little house, a fuzzy loyal dog, and a blossoming (very tentative!) new relationship with a nice guy. And I’m a doctor, for Chrissakes. With a job in a shitty economy.

So, anyway, another permutation on the journey. Let’s see how it plays out.

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