As part of a course called Continuity Clinical Experience (CCE), I’ve been going to an ENT clinic every Wednesday since September or October. Since the clinic I’m in is highly specialized, all I’ve been able to really do is shadow my preceptor or the resident who happens to be working with him. I enjoy it, but for much of the four hour time slot each Wednesday, I stand around and chat with another classmate, just barely a part of the hustle and bustle of the environment. Usually, I feel like a poser in a white coat, allowed to loiter only because I’m in the proper attire.
Today, my classmate and I went to clinic expecting a typical afternoon of acoustic neuromas and patients complaining of unilateral hearing loss. Our task for this month in CCE was to ask 2 patients and 2 team members to fill out evaluation forms for each of us; since we don’t have much patient interaction compared to our peers, we wondered how we would complete the assignment. “Surely they can’t evaluate us on how we stand in the corner,” I joked.
They didn’t have to. My preceptor chose four patients from his afternoon list and asked us to each pick two. “I want you two to go in, introduce yourselves, and take a basic patient history. Then come out and present to me or [the resident who’s helping out], and we’ll go in together to see the patient. At the end of the visit, I’ll ask them if they can fill out the evaluation for you.”
I’d only taken a history 2 or 3 times before, so I was extremely nervous. It took a lengthy moment of preparation to go up to the first exam room, say a quick prayer, and timidly knock on the door. My mouth was dry as I stumbled through the patient interview, apologizing profusely for the fact that I hadn’t had much experience talking to patients as a first-year. I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked out of the room to present to my preceptor, wondering what the patient would write on the evaluation.
I was much more comfortable with the second patient. We discussed her chief complaint and were even able to share a couple of laughs before I left the room. A short time later, when I finished presenting the history to the resident, he looked at me and said, “Fantastic job.”
I suddenly felt like I knew something, was learning something valuable…like I actually belonged in clinic.