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Gaining a patient’s perspective while becoming a doctor

A medical student learns by seeing the system from the other side

Two doctors, both aged over 70 years, teach our rotation of medical students. They stress “old-fashioned” values, including accurate history-taking, thorough physical examination, punctuality and courtesy. In an era of high-technology medicine and high patient throughput, how relevant are these dated principles?

Assigned to the best private hospital in the city, crammed with top specialists for my clinical placement year, it was downhill from there, I believed. I headed off to play squash after observing a protracted total hip replacement one night and felt on top of my game. A tinge of arrogant invincibility may have been the incentive to stretch just a bit further for an impossibly low wall shot. I reached it, won the point and tore my plantaris, soleus and gastrocnemius muscles at the same time.

Rest, ice, compress, elevate; just one of countless mnemonics to implement. I attended our surgery rotation on borrowed crutches the next morning and sought an informal opinion. With the coffee table between us, the consultant proclaimed: “gastroc’s largely intact and will heal with immobilisation — no need for surgery — you’ll be fine”.…