This had to be done... There aren't enough cynics around

Impractical Exams

Sitting in the exam hall is always nerve wracking... more so when it was going to be your first interaction with a patient in the pressure cooker scenario. After praying to every possible God, I entered the Ophthalmology exam hall. Seated in the 'minus type desk' was a gentleman with the usual thick all black glasses. Having talked with my seniors, I was prepared even for the worst case scenario- Some terrible post-op complication where the external would grill me about Murphy’s Law of Cataract Surgery.

Also, it was important not to irk the patient. For one thing, he was being gracious beyond limits by agreeing to sit here to help some random examiner gauge how good I was and how hard I had worked over the year in a 10 minute rapid fire round. Bless them. I sat next to the elderly gentleman and gave him a nod. Thankfully, his eyes had not yet been rendered ultra-sensitive to light by the million flashes of light shine into his eye by the nervous yet zealous medico.  After dutifully drawing the margins, I waited for the signal to start my interview.

We had done it several times. We had pissed off millions of patients and fooled a few of them into believing we had some say in their outcome. In fact, there was this pleasant old lady with a massive ‘lipoma’ (a benign accumulation of fat) we had encountered a few months ago in Surgery. One of my colleagues was just so good in her interview that in the eye of the patient, it would be this doc that relieved her of the burden. And a rather unplanned series of events culminated in the patient being convinced that this 3rd year Undergraduate student was going to be the surgeon.

As luck would have been,(Yarukku? Yarukko) the last thing the lady saw before going under Anaesthesia was the picture of the very same girl who had interviewed her in her O.R attire. Now even God couldn’t have convinced the lady that the girl had as much to do in the surgery as a Staff nurse has to do in the Admission Rooms. The surgery was successful and a few days later, the old lady chased the girl down the stairs to thank her ‘for all her troubles’. Although it is possible that the girl sped down the stairs hoping to avoid the lady fearing some repercussion had the surgery gone wrong, before realizing she was getting credit for the work of a soft spoken P.G.

Back in the room, the Assistant Professor gave us the ‘get started’ signal. After drawing a deep breath, I turned to the man, exchanged pleasantries and then got right down to the business

“So sir, what is bothering you?”

There was a subtle change in his expression and I could have sworn there was a drop of tear in his cheeks. What had I done???

“My daughter… She has come back from her husband’s house….”

I spent a few minutes consoling him and for that additional minute I spent on him, he gave me the diagnosis, the treatment planned and even the complications the professors had warned him against.

Needless to say, I didn’t quite ace the exam. For some inexplicable reason, the external examiner was more interested in a totally unrelated complication. That and another experience in ENT where I was reprimanded for not giving an answer to a simple question only to realize that I had already given the answer, albeit, the eponym of the surgery made me realize the most important thing about examiners.

They see only what they want to see and hear only what they want to hear. Zero peripheral tolerance…

All the best to all the medicos appearing for their practical exams…