I am about halfway through my shadowing experience for this summer. It has been an enlightening experience so far. I have been able to view Dr. Cataldo during a mixture of surgeries and in the clinic. I have experienced firsthand patient-physician interactions and physician-physician interactions. I have felt the concerns and questions patients raised with their doctors and saw how the doctors tried to alleviate the concerns. On my first day of shadowing, I was able to sit in on the tumor board. The tumor board is where doctors and nurse practitioners come together to discuss patients that have cancer and how each patient should be treated. Afterwards there was a tumor clinic where the doctors saw the patients that they had discussed an hour before. The doctors who attend the clinic were a mixture of oncologists, radiation oncologists, and the two colorectal surgeons. There were also nurses and nurse practitioners. I have been to the tumor board and tumor clinic a couple times now. Each time I find it exciting but scary to hear the doctors discuss the patients and then be with Dr. Cataldo when he saw the patients discussed in the past hour because I can see how the doctors implement the treatment they have discussed.
I have been able to observe a few surgeries so far. I have seen a mixture of open surgeries, laparoscopic surgeries, and surgeries with a robot. I was worried that I would feel sick from watching the operations but that has only happened once. The operations have intrigued me. Operations involve many different types of equipment and medical personnel. I have learned that surgeries are a team effort. It is not just the surgeon performing the operation alone. There is a circulating nurse, a surgical technician, an anesthesiologist, either an anesthesiologist resident or a certified registered nurse anesthesiologist, the surgeon, and the surgical resident. Teamwork is an essential component of a successful surgery. No one works alone in the medical field. There is a lot of collaboration between doctors and other practitioners in the medical field. Also, you can always ask others for help when you need it.
Based on my experiences to date, I have found that the medical field differs from university and academic life because practicing medicine is not just about knowledge but putting that knowledge to practice. While attending university, students learn all about the anatomy of the human body and about disease. Although that learning is necessary to becoming a doctor, caring for patients requires using knowledge to calm patients and treat them. Doctors need to have more than just book knowledge; they also need a certain amount of street smarts. I have learned the importance of sociology and psychology with respect to medicine. With each patient, there is a psychosocial examination performed. It is important to take into account the social and psychological background of each patient to better understand the patient’s life and how the disease that one has affects his or her life. I have enjoyed learning that sociology is important in medicine because I have very much enjoyed the sociology classes that I have taken at Brandeis. I now see that my concerns that they would not be very useful for medical school are unfounded.
My shadowing experience so far has taught me to have a greater appreciation for teamwork and communication skills. My communication skills have improved as I have interacted with Dr. Cataldo, his colleagues, and his patients. I have learned that it is okay to work together in order to accomplish a goal. When Dr. Cataldo has clinic, the resident or nurse practitioner is the first to go in the room to see the patient. The resident or nurse practitioner then reports back to Dr. Cataldo and then he goes to see the patient. I also have learned the importance of thoroughly listening. A doctor must careful listen to a patient’s problems before giving a response or diagnosis.
One thing that I have learned about myself from shadowing is that I love the clinical work. I like being able to interact with the patients. Not only learning from them about their conditions, but also hearing their fears, concerns, and hopes. My shadowing experience has reaffirmed my goal of helping people through the medical profession.