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What I Learned From My Family Medicine Rotation

Posted Oct 30 2012 6:38am

My family medicine rotation officially ended on Friday and I’ve started my new rotation as of today!  This is technically my vacation month, but I chose to do an elective rotation in research.  I’m working in a lab in the department of ophthalmology and my project is on retinoblastoma.  More about this to come soon :-)

I spent Sunday catching up on grocery shopping, cleaning my house, mowing the yard, blah blah blah.  While I was grocery shopping, I found these gems for 1 dollar each- naturally I had to buy 4 of them and I think I’m going to go back and buy them all for myself and to use as stocking stuffers!

I figured I had to try one out, so I grabbed the clay mask with chocolate and strawberries.  It was thick and really did feel like clay!  And it smelled amazing.

Isn’t this such a good look for me?  It dried really stiff and I felt like I couldn’t move my face!  Love it.

Yesterday was Monday morning and I woke up ready to go!  After a weekend of not so healthy food choices, I drove my butt to the 5:45am spin class.  It has been forever since I’ve been to this class and I forgot how much I love it!

Meals lately have been pretty simple.  I haven’t felt like making recipes and I’ve been enjoying having simple things like veggies and a protein thrown into a tupperware.  Breakfast never changes- oatmeal all the way!  Lunch yesterday was tuna mixed with some dijon mustard over mixed greens and asparagus.

I had some protein powder mixed with almond milk as a quick snack in the later afternoon.  Dinner was egg whites with spinach, a spinach pancake, and some chocolate tofu pudding.  Did you know that if you take soft tofu and put it in your blender with a tiny bit of almond milk, sweetener, and cocoa powder, it turns into the best chocolate pudding that has no sugar, no fat, and tons of protein?  Neither did I!! Until yesterday…

Okay, enough of my boring and weird food.  Here are my thoughts about my family medicine rotation:

I had a unique experience in my family medicine rotation because I left Indianapolis and went to southern Indiana to stay with my mom and step-dad.  I learned a ton about the field and enjoyed my days at the clinic very much.   Here’s what I learned:

1.  Take care of the whole patient

So often these days patients are shipped from one specialist to another.  You may be seeing an orthopedist for your knee pain, a cardiologist for your heart murmur, a GI specialist for your acid reflux, and a dermatologist for your pre-cancerous skin lesions.  The terrible thing about this is that no one doctor is overseeing your entire care.  The GI doc might get a note from the cardiologist at some time, but none of your doctors understand the entire picture of what’s going on with you.

That is why a family doc is so important!  You need someone to look at you as a whole person.  In most cases, your family doc should be able to manage almost all of your medical conditions.  Sending someone to a specialist should not be common place (in my opinion) and yet today, it’s all we see!!  I respect family doctors who take it as their responsibility to treat your acid reflux and heart condition as best they can.  If the medical condition appears to over time stop responding to treatment, or not get better at all, then a specialists referral is in order.  But only then!! I wouldn’t want to have 6 different doctors right off the bat would you?

2.  Nurses are awesome

The clinic I worked at had close to 30 nurses who basically ran the place.  They were amazing.  Not only were these girls super knowledgeable but they were skilled in all kinds of things like ultrasound, biopsies, injections, etc.  I was so impressed by the nurses knowledge.  Most of all, I quickly learned how much the patients LOVED their nurses!  Many patients only see the nurse practitioners and boy oh boy did they love them!  It was really special to see the bond between patients and their nurses.  I hadn’t interacted with many nurses before this rotation and I am so grateful to have had such a wonderful experience with them.

3.  You Patient Depends On You

I saw several patients over the course of my month long rotation who told me that their family doctor was their number one support.  These people were suffering from chronic illnesses and felt like no one understood them but their family doc.  It really opened my eyes to the relationship you can have with your patient- it’s so special and should not be taken for granted.

4.  Lots of Treatment Plans

I learned tons of things about managing high cholesterol, diabetes, back pain, high blood pressure.  I learned how to perform a pelvic exam and a prostate exam.  I learned how to tell if a patient needs antibiotics or not.  I learned how to treat cellulitis.  I learned how to inject a knee joint, how to inject muscles in the back, and how to perform a skin biopsy.  I learned all about dictating notes into the chart, billing, coding, scheduling, and more.  This month really showed me the ins and outs of a clinic.  Up until this point, I’ve spent most of my time in the hospital- so it was great to have some clinic time.

5.  I Don’t Think I Could Do Family Medicine

Let me explain.  I really loved the day to day interactions with patients.  I want a career with small procedures in the office (which family practice has).  I want a medical specialty that allows me to see the same patients over a long period of time (just like family medicine).  Before this rotation I honestly thought I might consider family medicine as my future specialty.

But for some reason I just didn’t love it.  When I really stop to think about why, this is what I come up with:  I want a specialty with more complicated diagnoses, more critical thinking, and more intellectual skills needed.  I found that so much of family medicine is an algorithm:  If they have this level of high blood pressure, do this.  If they have this blood sugar do this.  If they are 50 years old they have to have x, y, and z.  I didn’t feel like much of my day was spent really scratching my head, trying to piece together an interesting case- and that is what I love and need in a specialty.


Overall it was an amazing month.  I have SO MUCH respect for family doctors- they do it all!

You can check out What I learned on my internal medicine rotation , what I learned on my psychiatry rotation , and what I learned on my neurology rotation under the science heading or by clicking these links :-)

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