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"So are you enjoying it?"

Written by Joe de Silva · Wednesday 5th March 2014

"When did the pain start Mr Smith?"

"Ah so do you enjoy it?"

'It' of course refers to your five year medical degree. Patients can be nice can't they. Often it seems that all patients want to talk about is you. I thought the public didn't like students, aren't students lazy drunks who wake up at midday, squander their government hand-outs on designer clothes, and whose prevailing role in society was to keep the nation's budget baked bean industry in the black?
Apparently the same isn't thought of medical students, well maybe it is, but god patients are polite. The thing is I have found these questions difficult; it is surprising how they can catch you off guard. Asking if I am enjoying 'it' after I have woken up at dawn, sat on a bus for 40 minutes, and hunted down a clinician who had no idea I was meant to be there, could lead on to a very awkward consultation. But of course it doesn't "yes it is really good thank you".

"Do you take any medications, either from your GP or over the counter?"

"Are you training to be a GP then?"

Medicine is a fascinating topic and indeed career, which surely human nature makes us all interested in. As individuals lucky enough to be studying it, maybe we forget how intriguing the medical profession is? This paired with patients sat in a small formal environment with someone they don’t know could bring out the polite ‘Michael Parkinson’ in anybody. Isn't this just good manners, taking an interest. Well yes. Just because I can be faintly aloof doesn't mean the rest of the world has to me.
But perhaps there is a little more to it, we ask difficult personal questions, sometimes without even knowing it, we all know when taking a sexual history to expect the consultation to be awkward or embarrassing, but people can be apprehensive talking about anything, be it their cardiovascular disease, medications, even their date of birth. We often then go on to an examination: inspecting from the end of the bed, exposing a patient, palpating. Given a bit context you can see why a patient may want to shift the attention back to someone like us for a bit, and come on, the medical student is fair game, the best target, asking the consultant whether they enjoys their job, rather you than me. If we can oblige, and make a patient feel a bit more at ease we should, and it certainly won't be doing our student patient relationship any harm. Hopefully next time my answers will be a bit more forthcoming.

"Any change in your bowels, blood in any motions?"

"How many years do you have left?"

It is a good thing we are all polite.