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On the Spot

Luciali72x722Lucia Li -- “We can't help everyone, but anyone can help someone.”

I’m at that rather dubious stage of my medical education wherein friends and family will quite happily tell me about their various health woes in a manner expectant of a sensible answer. Sadly, I can no longer get away with the excuses that served me so well in the first three years of uni (“I haven’t done any clinical medicine yet”) or the more recent version (“I haven’t done that speciality yet”).

I don’t always try to avoid answering, because sometimes I think I can actually be of help. One of my friends had a relative who had been discharged from clinic with a letter explaining the diagnosis. However, because this letter was a letter to the GP in which the relative had been copied in, most of it was gobbledygook to them. The letter was chock full of medical terminology that they found completely undecipherable. It was thus extremely gratifying when I was able to just simply explain what everything meant, being a walking-talking medical dictionary in a way.

Sometimes though, my actual medical opinion is sought, and that’s when I get a little nervous about whether I’ll really be helping or hindering. As a doctor, you are accountable for your advice to patients (diagnosis or management) and what that actually means is becoming more clear. What’s also slightly unnerving is that, quite often, friends and relatives seem to put more weight in your words that those of their own doctor! The mix of someone you trust as a person who also has medical knowledge seems irresistible… For me, it took a while to understand why a friend would put so much faith in what I was saying, and once I realised this, I have tried to ensure that my advice wasn’t going to be a substitute for going to a specialist.

Having said that, I do want to help when asked. I want to be able to give comfort, to point friends and family in the right direction, to be useful. It also is nice to realise that my student loan is not going to waste… I guess what I find difficult is that I don’t feel qualified to give an opinion and so am scared I’m giving the wrong one. But when I’m a doctor, that’s not going to be good enough for my patients. Sure, it’s ok to be scared sometimes, and an element of self-doubt can be healthy, but the only way to gain that confidence, to feel qualified and deserving of patients' faith, is to be the best that I can be. It’s a long hard slog, but ultimately worth it if I know that what I say and do will be the best that I can do for my patients.

January 5, 2009 in Lucia Li | Permalink


you are right ... u have actually spoken what every student feels... :)

Posted by: keerthi | Jan 14, 2009 7:22:15 PM

yeah. perfectly every medical student's feeling who is in clinical posting.

Posted by: binod poudel | Jan 16, 2009 6:03:19 AM

you are 100% right,am a 5th year medical student,
you have expressed my feelings in this regard. according to me,i wanna to help thse around me but the the fear of saying something wrong, harming the patient or even misleading him makes me so cautious in my giving an opinion.

Posted by: deyala | Jan 19, 2009 3:00:33 PM

ya...every med student goes through this i guess...i feel patient hearing and advicing what u know will make em happy..

Posted by: Dr.Ravichandra | Apr 10, 2009 1:45:10 AM

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