Three days ago on Friday, 6/19/15, I had the amazing experience of being able to shadow an OBGYN doctor, Dr. Nwynn. A funny thing about Dr. Nwynn- 18 years ago, when my mom was pregnant with me and my two brothers, Dr. Nwynn was her OBGYN doctor! As I later found out when he introduced me to his patients, my brothers and I were his only set of triplets in his ENTIRE career in medicine (ahhhh.. I feel so special!!!). The last time Dr. Nwynn saw me was when I was one year old and oh so tiny… he was shocked to see how big I’ve grown during these 17 years!
Being able to shadow a doctor is an experience like no other. Basically I just followed Dr. Nwynn around as his went about his day in the hospital. The day I shadowed him, he was working in the clinic, so he examined patients, performed simple procedures, and did computer work in between patients. It was pretty much non-stop work during those 4.5 hours, and I learned SO much.
I learned that after 24 weeks, a fetus can live outside its mother’s womb (40 weeks is a full-term pregnancy). Apparently the idea behind an ultrasound is that soundwaves are used to somehow generate the image of the baby. When performing an ultrasound, doctors have to spread this gel on the mom’s stomach due to the fact that soundwaves travel best through solid medium, and the gel eliminates air pockets between the skin and the “ultrasound tool” (not sure of the actual name for that tool). It’s all physics, as Dr. Nwynn said. I told him I hate physics, and he replied that he aced the physics portion of the MCAT. The first patient I saw was a young lady, pregnant with her first child. She and her husband came in for a regular prenatal check-up. Dr. Nwynn wasn’t this lady’s regular OBGYN doctor, but he was filling in that day. I was fascinated when I saw the ultrasound of the baby, who I believe was 26 weeks old. I saw the little heartbeat, and tried to make out the baby’s facial features- although to the untrained eye, as Dr. Nwynn said, it is very difficult to do so at this stage of the pregnancy. Being the first time he saw this patient, Dr. Nwynn tried to see the gender of the baby. After minutes of shifting the ultrasound device to get a clearer view of the baby’s private part, Dr. Nwynn came out inconclusive, which is normal at this stage. He said it was most likely a girl, since there wasn’t anything apparent between the legs.
The second patient I saw had vaginal yeast infection. Vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that can occur in some women- usually not young girls. Doctors call infections like these “bread and butter”, since they are so common. I actually got to take a look at the yeast infection bacteria under a microscope- they have a long and stringy appearance and resemble worms, in my opinion.
I learned that OBGYN doctors are not just “baby” doctors. The OB part, obstetrics, refers to babies; the GYN part, gynaecology, refers to parts of the female reproductive system.
Aside from basic facts, I gained a lot of insight on communication skills of doctors to patients, what it takes to become a doctor, and why one should pursue medicine. Patients, as Dr. Nwynn explained, are not just numbers on a screen. They are actual human beings and thus should be treated as such. Before seeing a patient, Dr. Nwynn always checked the patient’s history, especially if he didn’t know the patient well. I noticed that when doctors write their notes about patients, they include everything you tell them- even the seemingly trivial details. For instance, one doctor wrote that Patient X loved listening to such-and-such music and was going on vacation in a week to visit her mother, who had dementia. Details like that, doctors always write down. They are very thorough and meticulous.
Dr. Nwynn knows that I love performing, so he made it a point to always link being a doctor to performing. When doctors see patients, they must cater to the needs of each individual. Obviously no one person is alike, so no one person can be treated the same way. Doctors need to adjust their roles to make each patient feel as comfortable as possible. Once they are in the presence of a patient, it is show time. First and foremost, doctors need to make sure their patients know and understand what’s going on, meaning that they have to translate their doctor-speak to layman’s terminology. I noticed that Dr. Nwynn made copious use of analogies when describing certain anatomy to help his patients better understand their bodies. Doctors must have great interpersonal and communication skills with their patients. If a patient is visibly upset or worried, it is the job of the doctor to reassure that patient and soothe his/her nerves. One small detail I picked up on while observing Dr. Nwynn’s interactions with his patients was that he made it a point to frequently SAY his patient’s name throughout the examination. To me, this made Dr. Nwynn seem more compassionate and less intimidating. These kind of communication skills are not taught in med school- they are acquired through years of experience with people.
Speaking about people, Dr. Nwynn says that one big reason he loves medicine is the valuable relationships he makes with his numerous patients. Some patients he’s known for over a decade! Dr. Nwynn also stresses the fact that in medicine, there are zero barriers imposed by race, gender, sexuality, etc. On the inside, everyone looks the same- theoretically speaking.
I asked Dr. Nwynn if he finds his job particularly stressful. Dr. Nwynn’s reply: being a doctor is no more stressful than any other profession. The difference is, when you are a doctor, at least you can live comfortably without worrying about the next paycheck. True, very true…
So I think I will abruptly conclude my fairly lengthy spiel on my day at the clinic with Dr. Nwynn! It was an incredible experience that I really cherish. I actually went inside the OR with Dr. Nwynn today, but I will write about that crazy experience on another date. Now off to bed!
Good night world,