I clearly remember the entire sequence of events that occurred on the first day of my placement. I was first told to put on my stethoscope, which felt weird because we had just barely learned how to take blood pressure and perform a respiratory exam. I was also extremely glad that the first patient agreed to see me, however, I assumed that the physician would come in with me and I would first observe. However, the nurse just told me the patient was “ready” for me. This was an interesting word, that I reflected on because it made me think of the patient’s perspective in terms of being able to share vulnerable information with a complete stranger. All this patient knew was that I was a medical student and that was enough for them to place enough trust in me to share details of their health.
I walked into the room a little shaky because it was the first time I was alone in a room with a patient. I began the conversation with some small talk about the weather after which I tried to piece together the notes from my clinical skills class. I began with the famous OPQRST (Onset, Provocation, Quality, Radiation, Severity and Time) acronym to gather more information about their presenting illness. And after asking the patient the first question, everything else seemed to fall into place. I did not ask many questions and allowed the patient to guide the conversation. I found that almost every time, listening to the patient enabled me to easily find the next logical question to ask. I even was able to make her laugh, which made me feel more at ease. I was trying to write everything down and also ensure I had enough details to be able to present to the physician when she came in later. Throughout the interview, I had to try to separate my thoughts of being scared to focusing on the patient, which was easier than I thought.