As a pre-medical student shadowing at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, I was given a fair amount of observational privileges, but was not permitted to partake in much aside from that. As I’d learned in my prior years in the health professions, my role is essentially to be a fly on the wall, and try and disrupt the work flow as little as possible. That being said, Lahey, a Tufts Medical School affiliate, is a teaching hospital and I had the privilege of working alongside doctors, nurse practitioners, and physicians assistants, who deliberately went out of their way to answer any questions I had. Furthermore, the medical professionals I shadowed offered in detail explanations for a variety of bodily forms and functions, the epistemology of numerous diseases and medical conditions, as well as some specific techniques.
To my surprise, Dr. Warner allowed me to choose which specialties I was interested in, and organized for me to observe as much as possible in a six-week span. My shadowing opportunity started off in the gastroenterology unit. On day one I was placed in the fellows room, which meant that I got to meet a handful of different doctors in various years of post-graduate experience. The fellows schlepped me around to in-patient rounds as well as out-patient clinic visits. On my second day I was placed with a nurse practitioner, and followed her throughout her out-patient visits. I found how each medical professional builds a unique relationship with their patient, something that is less frequently seen in the veterinary world. Day three, I was permitted to observe procedures in the endoscopy suite. This consisted of not only endoscopies, but also colonoscopies, sigmoidoscopies, and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP for short). On day four, I shadowed a physician’s assistant in the out-patient unit again. On Friday of my first week, I was lucky enough to scrub in to the operating room and watch a handful of gastrointestinal surgeries, all back to back. By the end of the initial week at the hospital, I began to realize just exactly what goes on behind the scenes: lots and lots of IT work. As it turns out, the greater majority of the professional life of a medical personnel consists of dictation and note taking. My schedule for the following five weeks followed a similar pattern, save for the OR.
On most days, I worked from 8:30 am to about 4:30 pm, with a short break in the middle for lunch. Sometimes I even got to eat with the doctors! Throughout the course of my internship, I was able to shadow in an assortment of specialties including: gastroenterology, gynecology, pulmonary and critical care medicine, neurology and neuro critical care, and hospital medicine. Within each hospital unit, I saw how the different units operated independently from and in conjunction with one another. On that note, I came to realize just how critical each specialty is and how complicated medicine can be. The stark difference between veterinary and human medicine lies within the anatomy and specificity of care. It took a summer of rotation among specialties to realize exactly what this means.