Performing My First Physical Exam
October 18, 2013
Hello my excited readers! I did something fun and new today that I want to share with you. Today, I performed my first physical exam on a patient. To be fair, the exam was performed in a testing scenario, so my patient was healthy, grading me, and the exam had to be performed in fifteen minutes or less. Regardless, after nine weeks of memorizing the minutiae of the human body, it was nice to feel like I was doing something that resembled my conception of what the daily life of a physician involves.
The way it’s set up at my school is that from the time that classes started, basic anatomy information is integrated with the skills needed to perform various aspects of the physical exam. Since we’re currently finishing up the head and neck dissection, we most recently learned to do the examination of the head and neck physical exam. Today was a culmination of all the exams we have learned to perform in the past nine weeks. The format involves being randomly assigned a series of exams to perform on three separate patients who grade each student on the thoroughness of the exam.
It’s neat to be able to see the applications of the anatomy in a clinical setting. I have dissected out the lymph nodes on a cadaver and now can successfully palpate them on my “patients.” It’s also a lot more fun to practice physical exam skills than memorizing anatomy information. My classmates and I practiced on the “patients” during class-time, but that wasn’t enough to fully memorize each exam. As a result, we ended up practicing physical exam skills on each other, unsuspecting and cooperative loved ones, as well as some very helpful stuffed animals.
I think the exam went well and since it’s the beginning of five days of testing, it’s nice to have some upward momentum to start off the examination marathon. I wanted to share this vignette of excitement with you since I know how hard it is to be pre-med. You do all sorts of things that make you feel like you’re never going to actually have the chance to practice medicine. In some ways, the beginning of medical school reflects a similar frustration. However, today was the first day in medical school that I felt like I may actually have some skills that I can use as a physician. Hopefully you’ll be having similar exciting experiences soon!