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Hey there, this is Stefano again after a month or so of excruciating studying that cost me blood, sweat and tears (yes, I’m exaggerating a bit, but what’s wrong with adding a bit of epicness to plain library-crawling?). I managed to finish all my exams and I’m very much looking forward to doing some new hospital experiences, as it happens when every new semester starts. Unfortunately the ward in which I’m currently allocated (urology) isn’t as appealing as I would have liked it to be, so I’m currently trying to get into a certain different clinical rotation; I’ll only reveal what it is later on though, so bear with some suspense.

In any case, while thinking of what to write for Medschool.it next, I thought about how we all would love to put in practice what we just learnt during the exam session. In particular, this post will be for the 2nd years who just now must have gone through physiology and would like to get their hands on patients finally. Now, don’t get overexcited: real medicine starts only later on with semiotics (and I repeat: it “starts” with it), so you’ll have to be content with some not-very-clinical rotations.

There are two places where I’ve been and about which I can talk, although there are for sure some more (for example I know that Prof. Danesino accepts some students to do some genetic counseling or something like this; if you’re interested I can ask around and give you some more detailed information, just let me know). In this post I’ll only describe one, and I’ll leave the other for later.

What I’m going to talk about may have been already done by the 2nd years, but it may be useful to illustrate it for those who didn’t have the chance/will to do it, or for 1st years who are considering what they will be doing in six months.
Prof. Bottinelli of physiology generally talks in class about the chance of attending the Sports Medicine department, of which he is the director, in the Hospital Maugeri. I’m not sure whether he still puts forward this possibility or not, but I’m quite sure you can go and ask him to go there; in any case, the attendance requirements are quite flexible (you can go once a week or even less), so it won’t be too heavy on your schedule.
What you’ll do is to assist the doctors in the visits of the patients that go there to have a certification of good health in order to be able to practice sports; in fact, the “patients” will most of the times be as healthy as you are, but that’s probably the best kind of subjects with which to start. The visit is commonly composed of different tests:

'Hey, Lori! Take a look at Mr. Geckler's EKG!'
-measuring height and weight (mind that scales are not that easy to use);
-eyesight and Daltonism (color blindness) assessment;
-spirometry – lung function testing; you’ll have fun trying to explain to an 8-years-old kid how to do this correctly;
-physical examination – you may get your first chances at auscultation of the heart and lungs, so bring a decent stethoscope with you!
-stress ECG on a treadmill – yes, the doctors there may even allow you to put the electrodes on the chest on the patient, providing you put some effort in learning their position; this is a good skill to have, later on;
-urine dipstick examination – well, dear Alice, you’re not in Wonderland anymore. You’ll have to start getting your hands dirty.

In spite of everything I said so far, you’ll get bored eventually; trust me, I’ve been there too: the excitement of wearing a lab coat and stethoscope for the first time will rapidly wear off. However, you’ll really have the possibility of getting used to talking to patients, and you will perhaps learn some things about physical examination and ECG that will come in handy later on (but don’t expect people to just start explaining everything to you: ask questions. Plenty of them.) Even if you’re not a native Italian speaker, you can go there in couples, so one of you can help with the talking in case something were to go wrong.
All in all, it’s a useful experience, although with some highs and lows.

Well, I’ll take a break for now and get down on some serious studying myself, but I’ll make sure to continue with the second topic soon. Just know that we’ll pass from very healthy patients to very diseased ones, so it’ll get more interesting (even for 3rd years).

Stefano Doria (Pavia)