My Chinese Put to Use

I learned mandarin out of interest, and till now, I’ve still felt that my Mandarin is still extremely limited.

Words in my vocabulary were probably limited to basic things like “我很 高兴认识你” (I’m pleased to meet you) and “你的电话号码是什么?” (what is your telephone number?)

I never expected to conduct an entire medical history in Chinese!

I tried to ask questions in English, which were met with a blank stare. “You speak Mandarin?” she asked me.

I knew I couldn’t avoid it. So, I replied reluctantly “我的中文不太好” (My Chinese isn’t that great.)

In the end, it was a great learning experience, and a chance to test my Chinese out. The patient understood my mandarin to a large extent, and I was able to tease out the main reason for her presentation; namely, that she had numbness and tingling of her right arm, secondary to repetitive manual labour as part of her farming work.

Performing the Tinel’s test and Phalen’s test helped me to confirm the likely diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome, which I couldn’t translate in Chinese, but for which the use of my $2 Chinese dictionary saved me a ton of effort.

I learnt a new word that day “麻痹“ (numbness). And that patient taught me that my mandarin is better than I thought it was. 2.5 years of mandarin, and I could conduct a basic medical interview. Now, that made me very happy 🙂

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Things I Learned in My Surgical Term

I have avoided writing about my surgical term until now (re: I have been too lazy lately to post much to my blog). It was a time of stress, a time of dread just thinking about work, and a whole lot of hard work with very little appreciation of the efforts put in at work.

Here are 5 of the things I learned about surgery during my rotation:

1. The consultant will blame you for things not going smoothly (read: the consultants are control freaks)

One particular patient seen during the ward round, was only being kept in because of his rising LFTs following a cholecystectomy. If his LFTs were fine, he could go home. The consultant decided to blast me vigorously about my lack of proactiveness in not asking the 6am phlebotomy blood rounds to have taken bloods from this patient so that we could discharge them during the ward round. The only problem: there are no 6 am phlebotomy ward rounds, only the 8 am rounds, and by the time they get to the surgical ward, it’s not till at least 9 am. Conclusion: my consultant is a control freak, and terribly clueless about the hospital schedules.

2. Hard work goes largely unappreciated. It’s all about results at the end of the day.

Despite us interns constantly working 2 hours overtime each day, some of us were told that we treated our jobs like a “9-4” job. We were also slagged for how little discharge summaries we were doing (since we were way too busy with lion’s share of ward work), yet the registrars got more discharge summaries done (the overnight registrar usually has a bunch of time to do them).

3. A met call on surgery doesn’t get you any senior staff – you’re pretty much on your own

My first met call ever was in surgery, after a patient’s legs gave way. Only 3 nurses and another intern attended the met call. Registrars and consultants were no where in sight. Fortunately the incident was fairly minor with only some torn skin (ouch).

4. The sickest patients should be looked after by the least experienced (interns)

Surgical patients are some of the sickest patients in the hospital. Most are elderly, with several comorbidities, and who have gone through some extreme surgery starting with “radical” and ending with -ectomy (ie a major major operation). Subsequently, nurses would constantly be asking interns to review patient A or patient B because of fevers, reduced urine output, high blood pressure etc. Being interns of course, we had hardly any experience with these patients, yet were expected to deal with them. Registrars were no where in sight again (see 3).

5. It’s teach yourself surgery.

Not once did any registrar sit down to properly explain about why we are managing patient A with such a management plan. We had to figure everything out ourselves by reading, and by experience. Asking questions were met with raised eyebrows and judgemental questioning of  “shouldn’t you have learned that in medical school already?”. The worse thing: registrars claiming how much you learnt at the end of the rotation due to their excellent teaching.

So there you go. A list of 5 things that surgery taught me. May I never have to repeat that again.