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On the very first day of my respiratory rotation, I found myself on a ward round with a trail of doctors, nurses and students following around the consultant. On our way through a particularly busy ward, we passed by a patient who was obviously very agitated and confused, and was causing quite a bit of noise in an already hectic ward. The consultant looked at me and told me to go and do something about that noise.
Just to put this in context, at this stage in my training I had only been in the hospital for about a month, just being able to get through the day without feeling out of place was a success. As I walked towards the patient with two of my colleagues, I wasn’t quite sure what I could do. Lorazepam? Call a family member? I had no idea, so I thought I would just let my colleague take the lead.
As the other medical students attempted to communicate with the patient, asking her if she was ok or if she needed anything, my mind actually wandered. I was thinking about how lonely it must be in the hospital, how scared this patient might be, but also how long this ward round was going to take…
When I realised I had been day dreaming and came back to reality, the only thing I could do was give the patient a sympathetic smile. The patient, who had been talking erratically to my colleague, glanced in my direction and then stared at me, and I mean fully gave me her undivided attention and stopped talking.
At the time, I was actually quite intimidated and was not sure what was going to happen next. Before I could dwell on it for too long, the patient broke out into a smile and told me I was the first person she saw smiling all day. The patient quickly calmed down and proceeded to explain to us that although she had been in hospital many times, this time she was very confused. She told us how scary it was for her to wake up not knowing where she was, with everyone around her too busy to even talk to her.
The entire experience was enlightening. I was delighted by the fact that even though my clinical skills and knowledge were still being developed, I was still able to help a patient, solely by providing an attentive ear and a compassionate smile. It’s a lesson that I think will help me get through the rough patches in my medical career.