Holding Pattern

Or, Long Overdue, Take That Writer’s Block, Here’s What’s Going On With Me Post – Take Two.

Well, as of last Tuesday at 4:24 pm (weirdly enough), I finished my last med school rotation. Donesies.

The Last Rotation turned out to be a good one to go out on. Like many of the more fluffy/filler rotations in my fourth year schedule, it ended up being way better than many I had counted on being slam dunks. (Yes, this means you general surgery. You and your endless hours of watching colonoscopies. Forget water boarding, they should just make terrorists watch colonoscopies until they tell everything they have ever known. It probably wouldn’t take long as long as you’d think, and it would probably be less physically, if significantly more psychologically, deleterious. Seriously.)

First of all, my attending was efficient. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate efficiency in an attending at this point. Meaning they scheduled a lot of patients, frequently double-booking, but still managed to see everyone on time. Meaning they showed up where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there, and we all got to leave when were supposed to. And they did this while still managing to provide some of the highest quality care and patient education I have been a witness to thus far.

Of course, this didn’t leave a lot of time for hare-brained road trips, lengthy discourses on the brilliance of Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/Kung Fu/The Evils of Obamacare, or hours-long phone calls with (personal home) contractors. But they still managed to get the job done, done well, and, oh, did I mention On Time. A-mazingness.

Secondly, I learned way more on the rotation than I thought possible. My only previous experience with dermatology was a few hours during second year peering over the shoulders of several other med students at a couple recalcitrant cases of acne and athlete’s foot, plus whatever I’ve managed to pick up in other clinics the last two years. (Mostly along the lines of “Well, looks like you’ve got a spot/rash/pimply thing there. Let’s freeze/biopsy/send that to a Dermatologist shall we?”) I scheduled the rotation because I realize no matter what field of medicine you go into, patients will usually have skin, and I would like to do (at least slightly) better than “Diagnosis: Spot/Rash/Pimply Thing.”

Now before I started the rotation I had to make a mental effort to put my own personal feelings about Derm aside, because frankly, for some reason, Derm scares the crap out of me. I do not often suffer from Medstudentitis, but after my first Derm lecture in second year pathology, I (literally) ran home to make an appointment for a skin check ASAP. Normally, it takes a lot more than a lecture to make me schedule an actual doctor’s appointment, like, an unstoppable arterial bleed, or intractable pain, or someone just dragging me in after I’ve finally lost consciousness. But I did feel (at least slightly) less foolish when I returned for round two of the lecture and heard that several of my classmates had been busy scheduling skin checks too, and, when I finally had that big, ugly, turned out to be dysplastic mole removed (Eek).

Inexplicable personal fears aside, the absolutely most important things I learned in Derm as far as prevention of scary dermatologic issues (you know, wrinkles, and the most common cancer in America, i.e. Skin Cancer – double Eek) are, in no particular order:

#1. Wear Sunscreen.

#2. Wear Sunscreen.

and

#3. Please refer to #1 and #2.

As my attending often said, “You can’t do anything about the all the sun you’ve gotten before today, but from [insert the date here, when you wise up and start wearing sunscreen] on, you can (stop being a foolish person and) protect yourself.”

Here are some good resources to check out if you (like me) are also frightened (witless) by the prospect of Skin Cancer (fine, and wrinkles), and would like to (wise up) and learn more about how to prevent it, or catch it early enough for (highly successful) treatment:

Skin Cancer Foundation

American Cancer Society

American Academy of Dermatology

But we did not just see patients with Skin Cancer or pre-cancerous lesions (though we did see A LOT of them, enough to make me immediately go out and buy 15 different sunscreens and start applying them all liberally). We also saw patients with a wide variety of rashes, spots and pimply things with a wide variety of etiologies. At first I was just frantically checking and rechecking the (minute) differences between papules, nodules, macules, plaques, etc. so I could sound (at least slightly) more like a fourth year med student about to graduate (who should actually be allowed to graduate), than a Giant Dinghus when I was describing said lesions.

Oh. Little did I know.

That the Language of Dermatology is so much more than accurately describing a lesion (in terms that only a dermatologist will usually, probably know if you’ve used them incorrectly, but whatevs). Once you get past describing the beastie in question, then you actually name it with titles like “Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy” or “erosio interdigitalis blastomycetia” or “chondrodermatitis nodularis chronica helicis” or “central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia.” The list goes on (and on).

Spot? Rash? Pimply thing? Hah!

At first, listening to my attending whip these tongue-twisting terms out left and right, I was intimated by my ignorance, but then, when I realized that they realized that I was ignorant and they were just trying to teach me, it started to be fun. (Not seeing patients afflicted with these problems, just actually being able to put a name, a really freaking fancy-sounding name, to them and a proper treatment. Just in case anyone was wondering.) Now. Who wants to play Words With Friends??

So, The Last Rotation was good.

I celebrated the end of med school with a nap.

And then I woke up to think, Crap. Now what?

Basically, now I’m in an extended holding pattern until residency starts.

I know, I should be all rejoicing, and stuff, or whatever, at all this Free Time. But honestly, I don’t really like a lot of free time. I like to be busy. Doing stuff that betters the human condition, and stuff, or whatever. I can’t help it. I realized a long time ago that life is short, so I like to do as much actually meaningful stuff as possible in whatever time I do have.

Unfortunately, all the stuff I do have to fill in this magical blank space on my calendar, is stuff I don’t want to do. Like finding a home for my dog (still no luck, sad face), selling all of my worldly possessions I possibly can (which admittedly doesn’t amount to much, because much like a lot of free time, I also don’t care much for a lot of possessions), moving, and filling out a ton of paperwork for things like loan forbearance, medical licensures, utility and address switching, cancelling any and all vacation plans in the name of Grown Up Fiscal Responsibility, saying goodbye to all my beloved ones, etcetera, etcetera.

Yuck.

I wish I could only write Happy Posts that make rainbows and butterflies shoot out of people’s behinds and computer screens, and I suppose that’s why I hesitated for so long to write this post. But, I choose to write about the truth, and the truth is, holding patterns and long tedious To Do lists are sucky.

But, that’s life. Right now, that’s my life.

It could be a lot worse (I know, trust me), so I’ll quit whining. Plus, I do have a few crafty pursuits to break up all the To-Do’s, and a few nurse-y shifts scheduled to make me feel like a productive member of society again. I’m nearing the end of one of those shifts. I can smell that heavenly, breakfast-y, bacon-y smell wafting down from the kitchen that tells me soon I’ll be walking out into the sunshine, and everything will look a little brighter.

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