Playing Doctor

I’d wanted to blog about Ash Wednesday earlier this week and I do have a draft that’s full of sentence fragments and half-formed thoughts, but I’ve apparently fried my Beth-to-English circuits to the point that I’m having difficulty articulating anything more nuanced than an ECG report.

The revision that I’ve been doing over the last ten days has been an entirely different sort of thing to that which I was doing before, and thank God. I was eating and breathing and sleeping the contents of my past paper folder, and my idle fantasies about throwing it off the roof might have become considerably less so if that had lasted for much longer. It has been exiled, at least until after the results, to the top of a stack of unsorted junk that lives on top of my printer.

Since last Friday, my daily routine has involved settling down into an empty spot amongst the piles of books and notes and stethoscopes that presently cover what, once upon a time, used to be my living room floor, and spending most of my day torturing my lovely flatmate. I’ve hit her with tendon hammers, yelled at her about my husband’s operation, asked her to make funny faces, wiggled my fingers in her eyes, got her to play patty-cake, and told her with a more-or-less straight face that I’ve got a painful right testicle. I’ve let her torture me, too. It’s only fair. We have discovered that I have unusually brisk reflexes and that all the processed food and stress in the world have done nothing to shift my stubbornly low blood pressure. I’ve told her about her gestational diabetes and the lithium that I want to start her on. I’m beginning to forget what it’s like to have a conversation with her that doesn’t require one of us to give our full name and date of birth. On most days, I’ve gone into the medical school for a little while and spent a couple of hours running round with blood pressure cuffs and ophthalmoscopes and simulated body parts and, in general, the equipment that we don’t have just lying around the house. A couple of days ago, a few of us took over a clinical skills room and ran through some of the emergency scenarios that might come up — one that has often been posed in the O&G stations, for example, involves working in a district general in the Western Isles, being called to see a woman who had her baby a few hours ago and is now having a post-partum haemorrhage, and discovering to your immediate panic that there is no senior help available, five minutes on the clock and go. I’ve also spent some time looking over the pertinent information that I need to be either getting from patients or giving out to them.

The thing that I’m most worried about is that I’ll run out the clock, especially on Monday, when half of the stations are based around psychiatry and are all about the talking. I can talk a lot. The five minute limit is a double-edged sword. It’s a blessing to know that if I’m screwing something up, I only have a maximum of about four and a half minutes before I can run away. But, for taking a medical history or for something like a psychiatry station, five minutes is barely enough time to draw breath and I’m expecting that there’ll be a number of occasions when I’m still talking as I’m ushered from the room.

I thought that this gap would feel like a long time, but instead I feel as though I finished the written papers and then glanced up to discover that it was suddenly Saturday.

My first OSCE is in thirty-six hours.

My last one will be over in eleven days.

Fingers crossed and all that.

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