Shadowing My Uncle Helped Me Understand Medicine A LOT Better

Many pre-med students stress over finding a doctor to shadow so that they may get exposure to medicine and enhance their applications to medical school. It's always a good idea for prospective students to shadow current doctors so that they may have a realistic perspective of medicine before committing themselves to a decade or more of medical school and residency. In fact, many students tend to have false impressions of what doctors actually do, which can only be resolved by actually observing them in practice. I was one of those students, and shadowing my uncle, who is a pediatrician, allowed me to see just what being a doctor is like.

For one, doctors spend their day alternating between seeing patients, treating them, documenting their encounters, prescribing medications, and ordering lab and scan results. When at my own pediatrician's clinic, I was frustrated for years by the fact that that she didn't see me immediately after the last patient left the examination room. When I shadowed my uncle and saw that he did the same thing, I realized that this was due to my doctor filling out her last patient's chart and getting mine out before seeing me. The only difference was that the office that my uncle practiced in had nurses to take care of some treatments and assessments, such as taking vital signs. Regardless, my uncle did have to deal with copious amounts of documentation, given that he prescribes restricted medications to ADHD patients, for example. This, in conjunction with my EMT training, showed me that the higher up a practitioner is, from a BLS provider to paramedic to nurse and doctor, the number of documentation increases due to the increased responsibility required.

Secondly, doctors spend as much time as possible comforting and building a rapport with patients, especially ones who they aren't already familiar with. Treating a patient is just as important as making them feel secure and comfortable, so having appropriate street smarts and social skills is a must. While seeing patients from all walks of life, my uncle spent quite a lot of time getting to know them and understanding what their chief complaints are. It is only natural for patients, especially young children, to be intimidated by doctors; therefore learning how to handle children and gain their trust is an invaluable skill to learn. In kids, dealing with (hysterical) parents can also be another issue, similarly to how EMTs handle children. Parents tend to act irrationally when it comes to their children, and sometimes a doctor is required to ease both the child and the parents. In fact, my uncle is so good at his job that he became extremely popular with his patients over the past decade.

Thirdly, doctors, especially general practitioners, place as much of an emphasis on short-term treatments as long-term treatments to ensure optimal growth and health in both the near and far futures. This is in stark contrast to the role of an EMT, which trained me on only handling immediate life threats and keeping the patient alive and stable while en route to the hospital. While a doctor's office is not an emergency setting, the difference is still real. I've never been trained to think long-term about a patient, just keeping them alive was my only concern. I still need to learn that going forward.

Lastly, I learned that a doctor is still human and thus prone to forgetting what dosage of certain medications are required. Medical school is rough because it bombards students with minuscule details that quickly add up, meaning that large amounts of information are inevitably forgotten. Therefore, my uncle constantly reviews professional materials, such as "The Harriet Lane Handbook," which details procedures and information that could be forgotten. My uncle admitted to me once that he uses that book twice a week when he needs to remember the dosages for all the medications he prescribes.

While I don't want to be a pediatrician, I did learn quite a lot just by simple observation. Being a pediatrician, or any doctor, takes a combination of intelligence, hard work, and social skills, not to mention the unending paperwork and relearning. I'm quite grateful for this eye-opening experience and hope to imbue myself with these qualities so that I may become better suited to being a physician when I eventually apply to medical schools.

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