When someone asks what I do for a living, I love to reply, “I pull weeds for friends and — ” here I blow on my nails and polish them on my shirt — “teach doctors.”
For a number of years now, the Saint John Regional Hospital has held twice-yearly workshops to teach doctors in Eastern Canada to understand and use ultrasound equipment.
For a shorter number of years, the University of New Brunswick at Saint John (UNBSJ) has had a medical school.
Dandyknife works at both institutions.
At the med school, I’m a Simulated Patient (SP). The job of an SP is to act out a role and then supply feedback in order to help the students learn to deal with various emotions that patients bring with them to a check-up. Depending on the character, I’ve yelled, I’ve wept, I’ve sat rocking with depression or stock-still with distrust. The med students learn through these sessions to see a patient as a whole person instead of just a presenting complaint, to show concern instead of coldness, to heal instead of cure.
Across the parking lot, I am a pork chop with a functioning circulatory system. I put on a johnny-shirt, get squirted with cold blue goo, and let strangers pass a four-thousand-dollar probe over various body parts.
The ultrasound machines have evolved to the size and shape of laptop computers. Having started work at the patient-centred medical school, I must admit words failed me at my first ultrasound gig when my station’s teaching doctor, rearranging the bedside stand, momentarily balanced the ultrasound machine on the small of my back.
But it seems to me that attitudes are changing. And I wouldn’t be surprised if these new attitudes are due in part to our new med school, and the graduates who are now interning on the other side of the parking lot.
The second-last time I helped at an ultrasound workshop, the teaching doctors actually asked me and the other four live models our names. And this last time, not only had the room temperature been raised to humanly tolerable, but we rentable bodies each got a name tag!
And near the end of the day, one of the erstwhile old-school doctors spoke to me by name and asked me politely, “Dandyknife, could you be my neck? I’ve lost my other neck.”
“Yes, I’ll be your neck,” I replied with a smile, as I hopped up on the gurney.