My First

Buckingham Fountain in Chicago

I don’t remember my first patient. Not from medical school or residency or even private practice. It struck me when Linda Bethea of Nutsrok asked the question, that I have no idea who those people were at those milestones in my life.

What do I remember, then?

I remember being terrified. 

Was I going to make a fool out of myself? Would I misdiagnose something? What if they didn’t like me? 

There are many patients that I do remember over the years. They all taught me something. Even if I made a mistake. Even if they didn’t like me. Even if I didn’t like them. Even if I don’t remember their names or their faces now. Who I am today, as a physician and a person, is largely due to an accumulation of experience from all of them. 

So maybe I don’t remember my first. Or even my second. But maybe that doesn’t matter so much. 

I bet I WILL remember my last…

(Go check out Linda’s new book!)


33 thoughts on “My First

  1. LOL! I remember mine because I killed her. I was an aide, not a doctor and she was a sweet woman named Delores. Pressure socks, that’s all I did, I helped her with her socks and an hour later she died. So everyone in the place started whispering that I had killed her and the family in their grief demanded to know what had happened, who was the last person to have worked with her?

    It’s comical today, but at the time I was very young and a doctor had to sit me down and explain to me that she was 98 years old and there was no way pressure socks could have killed her anyway. Then he told me something really valuable about the rumors and accusations. He said, “you’re going to need to understand that people are just idiots.” To this day I think that may be the most useful piece of medical advice I’ve ever gotten. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 11 people

  2. I used to value firsts and lasts, like the opening and closing lines of a good book or movie. I imagine like you, absorbing the whole story, embracing each scene individually and then collectively makes each far more interesting. It’s a grand aspiration. Good post, Victo.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think my GP will remember his last as well. I have spoken of him here before – he is very funny and had many degrees. I knew he was trying to retire some years ago but with all the hospital docs I seldom see him. So I looked him up the other day to have the staples removed from my arm and he answered but I had gotten his personal cell phone and he was vacationing in Niagara Falls. I apologized and asked if someone had taken over his practice – he replied that he had tried to do that but with no luck so all the records were consigned to the medical repository on Toronto. He asked my name and I told him. He brightened considerably and replied: “You know I still get copies of your records from the hospital – that was a heck of a situation last week. Amazing that you actually died.” Apparently he was still following me after some years retired. I suspect I may be his last patient. Too interesting to let go of, and good Sunday morning reading with tea.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I think it’s true, that we are the sum of our experiences, including those whom we encounter. I’ll bet you even caught a few illnesses from your patients. Here’s hoping that’s not how you’ll remember your last one.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Weirdly I do remember my first patient. I was a EMT, first day out after basic training and I had to assess and make a working diagnosis of a very scared lady with shortness of breath. I remember telling the six foot paramedic with twenty years experience, I was crewed with at the time what I thought was wrong and he replied, so do you want to take the lady to hospital? The feeling of that decision being on my shoulders will not leave me. I think that’s why I remember it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t know how to ask this but do patients have a tendency to blend together during the course of a day/week? The ones that stand out, is it because of their personality or because their cases are more unusual?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have some that have similar names or appearances and they do blend together sometimes in my brain. That is why I have to review the chart before I pop into the room. Often a staff member will come to me and ask about a patient by their last name and I cannot remember who that was even if I saw them two days ago. I have to look them up. I see 20-27 people on average per day five days a week. Mostly the same stuff… Diabetes, blood pressure, back pain, sore throat. The ones that I do remember easily are the ones I see often or have been seeing for a number of years or in whom I have diagnosed something terrible. OR the particularly nasty patients that are disruptive to staff….

      Liked by 1 person

  7. We always told the medical students that their cadaver was their first patient, since they had to determine COD and other aspects of the person’s life from their body. The benefit was that the patient didn’t talk back.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a privilege it is to know so many people so intimately, to be given license to probe so deeply, sometimes for years on end. I was just on the phone with a patient today, when we realized that I have known her the longest out of any of my patients, from one practice to another and back again. I remember faces and stories and feelings, but not necessarily names, of so many patients over the years. They have all honored me with the chance to help them and also learn from them. Thanks for the reminder. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve had conversations with other pharmacists about the first prescription they dispensed on their own after being registered (and not having the assurance of someone else double-checking their work). I remember mine was for oxycodone – a great one to start with… I must’ve checked and re-checked it ten times.
    I also have trouble sometimes with matching names, faces and cases, but I’ve gotten better at it. It’s a little embarrassing to greet someone and ask what you can do for them, only to have them say they’re back to collect a script they dropped off half an hour ago (and you probably took in for them)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Based on close hand observation, (Daughter #1) I believe that you guys (docs) are quite brave. They pack you out with milk coming out your nose to attend patients. Who would not be terrified? And yet you go at it again and again, until the fear recedes. My compliments.

    Liked by 1 person

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