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Foo20151013 2023 ud040l?1444774156

I hate being on-call - I’m just not good at sleeping on the job

BOXING Day, 1.30am. “Are you the doctor on call?” I wrenched my reluctant brain from its REM state. “Yes.” “I’m worried about my wife. She’s 16 weeks pregnant and very gassy.” “Gassy?” “Burping and farting. Smells terrible! It’s keeping us both awake. I’m worried it could be serious.” By the time I ascertained that there were no sinister symptoms and that the likely culprit was the custard served with Christmas pudding (the patient was lactose intolerant), I was wide awake. My brain refused to power down for hours, as if out of spite for being so rudely aroused. I have a confession to make. When the Australian Federal Government announced that it was planning to abolish after-hours practice incentive payments, I was delighted. I know, I know, I should have been outraged along with the rest of you. After all, the RACGP predicted that after-hours care would be decimated if incentives were removed. Comparisons were made with the revamp of the UK system in 2004, which led to 90% of the profession opting out of after-hours work. Much as I sympathised, I was secretly rubbing my hands together with selfish glee. Surely this would mean that our semi-rural practice would stop doing all of our own on-call and free me from my after-hours responsibilities? I detest being on call. I loathe it with a passion completely out of proportion to the imposition it actually causes. I’m on call for the practice and our local hospital only once a week and the workload isn’t onerous. Middle-of-the-night calls aren’t all that frequent, but my sleep can be disturbed by their mere possibility, leaving me tired and cranky. If I’m forced suddenly into “brain on, work mode” by a phone call, I can kiss hours of precious slumber goodbye. I love to sleep, but, as with drawing and tennis, I’m not very good at it. I gaze with envy at those lucky devils who nap on public transport and fight malicious urges to disturb their peaceful repose. If I’m not supine, in a quiet, warm room, with loose-fitting clothing, a firm mattress and a pillow shaped just-so, I can forget any chance of sleep. Let’s just say I can relate to the Princess and the Pea story. I bet she wouldn’t have coped well with being phoned in the middle of the night either. If these nocturnal calls were all bona fide emergencies, I wouldn’t mind so much. It’s the crap that really riles me. I’ve received middle-of-the-night phone calls from patients who are constipated, patients with impacted cerumen (“Me ear’s blocked, Doc. I can’t sleep”) and patients with insomnia who want to know if it’s safe to take a second sedative. The call that took the on-call cake for me, though, was from a couple who woke me at 11.30 one night to settle an argument. “My husband says that bacteria are more dangerous than viruses but I reckon viruses are worse. After all, AIDS is a virus. Can you settle it for us so we can get some sleep? It would really help us out.” I kid you not. Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at  
Dr Genevieve Yates
over 6 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 2pctvh?1444774153

Pearls of Wisdom

If I had a penny, okay a pound, for every time a patient responded to the request to practice examining them said, 'Well, we all gotta learn', I would be a very rich medical student. (I'd like to add that this is said in a strong West-country accent, just so that you feel like you're really there.) I'm sure that the majority of my colleagues would agree. Today has been no different except for the fact that one of the patients I met described themselves as a 'whistleblower'. It was like my subconscious slapping me around the face and telling me to stop procrastinating. Why, you ask? Well I'm starting to get a little nervous actually, in exactly two weeks I'll be presenting my thoughts on whistleblowing (you might remember me going on about this during dissertation season) to a load of academics and healthcare professionals. My sphincters loosen up at the thought of it* Within five minutes of meeting this patient, they had imparted their wise words on me 'Chantal, just remember when you become a doctor - if you're absolutely sure that you're right about something then never be afraid to speak up about it.' Like music to my ears. Well, until he told me that he was convinced that 'cannabis cures all ills.' Each to their own. *I sincerely apologise, poor medic joke. Yuck. Written by Chantal Cox-George, 3rd Year Med Student at University of Bristol  
Chantal Cox-George
over 6 years ago
Foo20151013 2023 gc6z71?1444774005

Worst Medical Experience Ever

Worst experience ever? - this is pretty difficult as I've worked in some of the poorest countries in the world and seen some things that should never happen like children dying of dehydration and malaria. But this recent experience was definitely the worst. It was midnight and I was trying to get my 16 month old to sleep having woken up after vomiting in his cot. Despite paracetamol, ibuprofen, stripping to nappy, damp sponging and having the window open he went rigid and started fitting. It only lasted a minute or two yet felt like an eternity as he was unable to breathe and became progressively blue as my mind raced ahead to brain damage or some other horrible sequalae. The fitting stopped and my mind turned to whether I was going to have to start CPR. I lay him on the floor and put my ear to his chest and was glad to hear a strong heartbeat but he was floppy with a compromised airway so I quickly got him in the recovery position. The ambulance arrived in 8 minutes and after some oxygen and some observations he was strapped in and ready to go. He had been unconscious for about 15 minutes but was starting to come round, much to my relief. The ambulance crew were great and their quick response made all the difference but then they took nearly half an hour to get to A&E in the middle of the night because they took the most awkward route imaginable. I don't know if it was a deliberate delaying tactic or just a lack of local knowledge but even without a blue light I could have done it in half the time! Why do ambulances not have GPS - ideally with local traffic info built in? We arrived in A&E and were ushered to a miserable receptionist who took our details and told us to have a seat. I noticed above her head that the wait time was 3.5 hours, though we did see a junior nurse who took his observations again. Not long after the screen changed to a 5 hour wait and a bit later to a 6 hour wait! I am glad to say that by about 3 hours my little man was back to his usual self (as evidenced by his attempts at destroying the department) and so after getting the nurse to repeat his obs (all normal) we decided to take him home, knowing we had a few more hours to wait for the doctor, and that the doctor was now unlikely to do anything as he was now well. I tell the story in such detail in part for catharsis, in part to share my brief insight into being on the other side of the consultation, but also because it illustrated a number of system failures. It was a horrible experience but made a lot worse by those system failures. And I couldn't help but feel even more sorry for those around me who didn't have the medical experience that I had to contextualise it all. Sickness, in ourselves or our loved ones, is bad enough without the system making it worse. I had 3 hours of walking around the department with my son in my arms which gave me plenty of time to observe what was going on around me and consider whether it could be improved. I did of course not have access to all areas and so couldn't see what was happening behind the scenes so things may have been busier than I was aware of. Also it was only one evening so not necessarily representative. There were about 15 children in the department and for the 3 hours we were there only a handful of new patients that arrived so no obvious reason for the increasing delay. As I walked around it was clear to me that at least half of the children didn't need to be there. Some were fast asleep on the benches, arguably suggesting they didn't need emergency treatment. One lad had a minor head injury that just needed a clean and some advice. Whilst I didn't ask anyone what was wrong with people talk and so you hear what some of the problems were. Some were definately far more appropriate for general practice. So how could things have been improved and could technology have helped as well? One thing that struck me is that the 'triage' nurse would have been much better as a senior doctor. Not necessarily a consultant but certainly someone with the experience to make decisions. Had this been the case I think a good number could have been sent home very quickly, maybe with some basic treatment or maybe just with advice. Even if it was more complex it may have been that an urgent outpatient in a few days time would have been a much more satisfactory way of dealing with the problem. Even in our case where immediate discharge wouldn't have been appropriate a senior doctor could have made a quick assessment and said "let's observe him for a couple of hours and then repeat is obs - if he is well, the obs are normal and you are happy then you can go home". This would have made the world of difference to us. So where does the technology come in? I've already mentioned Sat Nav for the ambulance but there are a number of other points where technology could have played a part in improving patient experience. Starting with the ambulance if they had access to real time data on hospital A&E waiting times they may have been able to divert us to a hospital with a much shorter time. This is even more important for adult hospitals were the turnover of patients is much higher. Such information could help staff and patients make more informed decisions. The ambulance took us to hospital which was probably appropriate for us but not for everyone. Unfortunately many of the other services like GP out of hours are not always prepared to accept such patients and again the ambulance crews need to know where is available and what access and waiting times they have. Walk-in patients are often also totally inappropriate and an easy method of redirection would be beneficial for all concerned. But this requires change and may even require such radical ideas as paying for transport to take patients to alternative locations if they are more appropraite. The reasons patient's choose A&E when other services would be far more appropriate are many and complex. It can be about transport and convenience and past experiences and many other things. It is likely that at least some of it is that patients often struggle to get an appointment to see their own GP within a reasonable time frame or just that their impression is that it will be difficult to get an appointment so they don't even try. But imagine a system where the waiting times for appointments for all GPs and out of hours services were readily available to hospitals, ambulances, NHS direct etc. Even better imagine that authorised people could book appointments directly, even when the practice was closed. How many patients would be happy to avoid a long wait in A&E if they had the reassurance of a GP appointment the next day? And the technology already exists to do some of this and it wouldn't be that hard to adapt current technology to provide this functionality. Yet it still doesn't happen. I have my theories as to why but this is enough for one post. In case you were wondering my son appears to have made a full recovery with no obvious ongoing problems. I think I have recovered and then he makes the same breathing noises he made just before the fit and I am transported back to that fateful night. I think it will take time for the feelings to fade.  
Dr Damian Williams
over 7 years ago

Why does acute otitis media cause ear drum perforation, whereas otitis media with effusion doesn't?

The textbooks say there is no perforation in OME, but why? If there is fluid build-up then surely there is a risk of perforation?  
Carly Bisset
over 7 years ago

ENT Examination

Guide to doing a clinical exam on the ears, nose and throat by the clinical skills tutors at the University of Liverpool  
almost 8 years ago

Cranial Nerve Examination - Abnormal

Cranial Nerve 1- Olfaction This patient has difficulty identifying the smells presented. Loss of smell is anosmia. The most common cause is a cold (as in this patient) or nasal allergies. Other causes include trauma or a meningioma affecting the olfactory tracts. Anosmia is also seen in Kallman syndrome because of agenesis of the olfactory bulbs. Cranial Nerve 2- Visual acuity This patientâs visual acuity is being tested with a Rosenbaum chart. First the left eye is tested, then the right eye. He is tested with his glasses on so this represents corrected visual acuity. He has 20/70 vision in the left eye and 20/40 in the right. His decreased visual acuity is from optic nerve damage. Cranial Nerve II- Visual field The patient's visual fields are being tested with gross confrontation. A right sided visual field deficit for both eyes is shown. This is a right hemianopia from a lesion behind the optic chiasm involving the left optic tract, radiation or striate cortex. Cranial Nerve II- Fundoscopy The first photograph is of a fundus showing papilledema. The findings of papilledema include 1. Loss of venous pulsation 2. Swelling of the optic nerve head so there is loss of the disc margin 3. Venous engorgement 4. Disc hyperemi 5. Loss of the physiologic cup an 6. Flame shaped hemorrhages. This photograph shows all the signs except the hemorrhages and loss of venous pulsations. The second photograph shows optic atrophy, which is pallor of the optic disc resulting form damage to the optic nerve from pressure, ischemia, or demyelination. Images Courtesy Dr. Kathleen Digre, University of Uta Cranial Nerves 2 & 3- Pupillary Light Refle The swinging flashlight test is used to show a relative afferent pupillary defect or a Marcus Gunn pupil of the left eye. The left eye has perceived less light stimulus (a defect in the sensory or afferent pathway) then the opposite eye so the pupil dilates with the same light stimulus that caused constriction when the normal eye was stimulated. Video Courtesy of Dr.Daniel Jacobson, Marshfield Clini and Dr. Kathleen Digre, University of Uta Cranial Nerves 3, 4 & 6- Inspection & Ocular Alignmen This patient with ocular myasthenia gravis has bilateral ptosis, left greater than right. There is also ocular misalignment because of weakness of the eye muscles especially of the left eye. Note the reflection of the light source doesn't fall on the same location of each eyeball. Video Courtesy of Dr.Daniel Jacobson, Marshfield Clini and Dr. Kathleen Digre, University of Uta Cranial Nerves 3, 4 & 6- Versions • The first patient shown has incomplete abduction of her left eye from a 6th nerve palsy. • The second patient has a left 3rd nerve palsy resulting in ptosis, dilated pupil, limited adduction, elevation, and depression of the left eye. Second Video Courtesy of Dr.Daniel Jacobson, Marshfield Clini and Dr. Kathleen Digre, University of Uta Cranial Nerves 3, 4 & 6- Duction Each eye is examined with the other covered (this is called ductions). The patient is unable to adduct either the left or the right eye. If you watch closely you can see nystagmus upon abduction of each eye. When both eyes are tested together (testing versions) you can see the bilateral adduction defect with nystagmus of the abducting eye. This is bilateral internuclear ophthalmoplegia often caused by a demyelinating lesion effecting the MLF bilaterally. The adduction defect occurs because there is disruption of the MLF (internuclear) connections between the abducens nucleus and the lower motor neurons in the oculomotor nucleus that innervate the medial rectus muscle. Saccades Smooth Pursui The patient shown has progressive supranuclear palsy. As part of this disease there is disruption of fixation by square wave jerks and impairment of smooth pursuit movements. Saccadic eye movements are also impaired. Although not shown in this video, vertical saccadic eye movements are usually the initial deficit in this disorder. Video Courtesy of Dr.Daniel Jacobson, Marshfield Clini and Dr. Kathleen Digre, University of Utah Optokinetic Nystagmu This patient has poor optokinetic nystagmus when the tape is moved to the right or left. The patient lacks the input from the parietal-occipital gaze centers to initiate smooth pursuit movements therefore her visual tracking of the objects on the tape is inconsistent and erratic. Patients who have a lesion of the parietal-occipital gaze center will have absent optokinetic nystagmus when the tape is moved toward the side of the lesion. Vestibulo-ocular refle The vestibulo-ocular reflex should be present in a comatose patient with intact brainstem function. This is called intact "Doll’s eyes" because in the old fashion dolls the eyes were weighted with lead so when the head was turned one way the eyes turned in the opposite direction. Absent "Doll’s eyes" or vestibulo-ocular reflex indicates brainstem dysfunction at the midbrain-pontine level. Vergenc Light-near dissociation occurs when the pupils don't react to light but constrict with convergence as part of the near reflex. This is what happens in the Argyll-Robertson pupil (usually seen with neurosyphilis) where there is a pretectal lesion affecting the retinomesencephalic afferents controlling the light reflex but sparing the occipitomesencephalic pathways for the near reflex. Video Courtesy of Dr.Daniel Jacobson, Marshfield Clini and Dr. Kathleen Digre, University of Uta Cranial Nerve 5- Sensor There is a sensory deficit for both light touch and pain on the left side of the face for all divisions of the 5th nerve. Note that the deficit is first recognized just to the left of the midline and not exactly at the midline. Patients with psychogenic sensory loss often identify the sensory change as beginning right at the midline. Cranial Nerves 5 & 7 - Corneal refle A patient with an absent corneal reflex either has a CN 5 sensory deficit or a CN 7 motor deficit. The corneal reflex is particularly helpful in assessing brainstem function in the unconscious patient. An absent corneal reflex in this setting would indicate brainstem dysfunction. Cranial Nerve 5- Motor • The first patient shown has weakness of the pterygoids and the jaw deviates towards the side of the weakness. • The second patient shown has a positive jaw jerk which indicates an upper motor lesion affecting the 5th cranial nerve. First Video Courtesy of Alejandro Stern, Stern Foundation Cranial Nerve 7- Motor • The first patient has weakness of all the muscles of facial expression on the right side of the face indicating a lesion of the facial nucleus or the peripheral 7th nerve. • The second patient has weakness of the lower half of his left face including the orbicularis oculi muscle but sparing the forehead. This is consistent with a central 7th or upper motor neuron lesion. Video Courtesy of Alejandro Stern, Stern Foundatio Cranial Nerve 7- Sensory, Tast The patient has difficulty correctly identifying taste on the right side of the tongue indicating a lesion of the sensory limb of the 7th nerve. Cranial Nerve 8- Auditory Acuity, Weber & Rinne Test This patient has decreased hearing acuity of the right ear. The Weber test lateralizes to the right ear and bone conduction is greater than air conduction on the right. He has a conductive hearing loss. Cranial Nerve 8- Vestibula Patients with vestibular disease typically complain of vertigo – the illusion of a spinning movement. Nystagmus is the principle finding in vestibular disease. It is horizontal and torsional with the slow phase of the nystagmus toward the abnormal side in peripheral vestibular nerve disease. Visual fixation can suppress the nystagmus. In central causes of vertigo (located in the brainstem) the nystagmus can be horizontal, upbeat, downbeat, or torsional and is not suppressed by visual fixation. Cranial Nerve 9 & 10- Moto When the patient says "ah" there is excessive nasal air escape. The palate elevates more on the left side and the uvula deviates toward the left side because the right side is weak. This patient has a deficit of the right 9th & 10th cranial nerves. Video Courtesy of Alejandro Stern, Stern Foundatio Cranial Nerve 9 & 10- Sensory and Motor: Gag Refle Using a tongue blade, the left side of the patient's palate is touched which results in a gag reflex with the left side of the palate elevating more then the right and the uvula deviating to the left consistent with a right CN 9 & 10 deficit. Video Courtesy of Alejandro Stern, Stern Foundation Cranial Nerve 11- Moto When the patient contracts the muscles of the neck the left sternocleidomastoid muscle is easily seen but the right is absent. Looking at the back of the patient, the left trapezius muscle is outlined and present but the right is atrophic and hard to identify. These findings indicate a lesion of the right 11th cranial nerve. Video Courtesy of Alejandro Stern, Stern Foundation Cranial Nerve 12- Moto Notice the atrophy and fasciculation of the right side of this patient's tongue. The tongue deviates to the right as well because of weakness of the right intrinsic tongue muscles. These findings are present because of a lesion of the right 12th cranial nerve.  
Neurologic Exam
over 9 years ago

Focus On: Treatment of Epistaxis

Epistaxis is one of the most common ear, nose, and throat emergencies, with an estimated 60% lifetime incidence rate for an individual person.  
American College Of Emergency Medicine
about 10 years ago
Preview 250x249

Labyrinth and the Liminal Student

Background The transition period from undergraduate training to postgraduate “foundation” practice is brief – often only a matter of a few days - but its impact is profound. What was previously a well supported, structured learning environment is suddenly a strange and potentially frightening place where critical decision-making skills, authority and professionalism seem suddenly more relevant than all of the knowledge amassed in undergraduate training. Foundation doctors indicate that the undergraduate experience does little to prepare them for the shock of actual practice. Summary of work An emerging initiative within the University of Edinburgh’s College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine is to adopt the easy-to-use authoring tools and principals associated with Game Informed Learning to afford collaborative groups of later year undergraduates and foundation doctors the scope to create learning objects for undergraduates. Conclusions Using in-house developed instruments such as the branching scenario authoring tool “Labyrinth”, these groups draw on their recent experience of this transition period to create learning objects that not only directly address perceived gaps in the range of learning support activities available to undergraduates but also, using the principals of game-informed learning to situate the activities within realistic contexts, and plausible scenarios which offer an indication of what practice will feel like. Take-home message Learning tools to ease the transition between medical student and doctor.  
Jennifer Willder
almost 11 years ago