Interspersed with three weddings, a graduation, two trips to the west coast, and moving essentially twice to the Bronx, I have been taking part in a summer research program in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at our school's nearby teaching hospital. As I wrote in my previous post, the experience began abruptly and with little formal orientation. At the time it was absolutely terrifying and the trend of frantically scrambling through my ignorance to meet deadlines never abated. But this frenetic pace was great at pushing me to work and learn when all I really wanted to do was sleep, consume internet memes and allow my brain to regain its natural state of ooze.
Here are some broad takeaways from my dabbling in research:
- Hospital bureaucracies are vast and vogonic: You not only need to turn in the right forms to the right people, but also with the right attitude and 25 paper copies to get anything done with research. I fully understand that review boards protect patients and subjects alike and are a valuable part of the research process. But it seems that, due to being continually force-fed research that has been spun by the writers to seemingly be the greatest achievements in medicine, some of the people we deal with are so jaded that they deliberately put up roadblocks to innocuous requests because of harmless missteps in protocol.
- Resident physicians make surprisingly terrible subjects: Residents are newly graduated doctors, so they are necessarily smart, science savvy and knowledgeable about the benefits of research. However, they are also super-crazy busy and asking them to do even the most innocuous task might seemingly break their very tenuous hold on sanity. Our project required maybe 15 seconds of each resident once every few days. We went out of our way to position everything as conveniently as is humanly possible. Despite all of our conciliatory efforts, a month and a half into the study we only have about 50% participation, a number with which my adviser is actually really pleased.
- Residents are amazing: I got to work with a couple of residents on my project and it was absolutely incredible that they could manage extracurricular research on top of the 16-hour shifts (which rarely ended on time). These are doctors but they barely know what they're doing and yet they are directly responsible for the lives of direly ill children (don't worry, they have lots of supervision). The couple times I attended morning rounds in the PICU, it was amazing watching the residents present their patients to the attending. They can typically hit 95% of the important facts but they are always learning to be better. And there is so much to learn.
- Attendings are amazing, and I want to be one: And on the receiving end of rounds are the attendings, the real doctors. These are the board certified head honchos of the hospital world. They are responsible for everything the residents do and learn. And when things go wrong, not that the residents could have prevented the wrong-going, the residents and nurses call in the scrub-wearing cavalry. Seeing the attendings go to work is amazing, especially in the acute settings that the PICU provides, in part because of the calm way that they take charge of potentially chaotic situations. This is what entices me about critical care and has put this rather vague sub-specialty high on my list of potential careers.
Now I'm off to enjoy the last stress-free night's sleep of summer! I'm looking forward to (and already planning out) my first post of the year for tomorrow night. See you then!*
*I will not see you and you will not see me, but you might read more words that I have haphazardly collected in blog form.