Learning how much I have to learn

As an intern at Shawnee Healthcare Clinic, with time, I have begun to understand both my limitations, given my limited knowledge and experience overall, and my capabilities, given the skills and training I do possess, within the medical setting. I am working in a highly specialized and challenging field. Medicine as a whole requires a tremendous deal of education, certification, and training. As an undergrad student, I am fairly limited in terms of my capabilities. Clearly, I am not certified to prescribe medications or diagnose illnesses. Therefore, it has been a process to learn the ways in which I can still contribute to patient care and the clinic environment given my limitations. During my initial weeks as an intern, I have learned a tremendous deal. I had to be taught a lot of things: how to use the blood pressure machines, how to run blood samples, what patient information to record, etc. However, a lot of my contributions simply involved taking initiative. I will say that I have learned that one of the best ways to contribute to the clinic is just to pay attention and meet needs as they come along. If I know that the clinic is busy and all of the exam rooms need to be used, I learned to take equipment I knew would be needed into the room and prepare it for the provider to use it. Alternatively, if I see a sample sitting in the lab that I know needs to be run, but one of the medical assistants does not have time to run it, I ask the provider if they would like me to run it and then bring them the information. Often, there is so much going on in the clinic that the providers and medical assistants do not even have time to ask for help or think about what needs to be done next. Thus. if I see something that I know needs to be done, I simply clear it with one of the providers and act. Initially, while I was still figuring things out and getting used to the clinic, sometimes the providers would be so busy, I felt like I didn’t have anything to do. However, I quickly learned that after observing things, there is almost always something that needs to be done, it’s just a matter of being able to see the need and respond to it. This is something that took me a bit of time to get the hang of as I learned the rhythms and requirements of the clinic and patient care.

Technically, my title is Case Management Assistant, which essentially means that I help ensure each patient is being properly cared for during each visit. Initially, before coming to the internship, I thought my responsibilities would include making sure patients receive required care, working with medical records to identify patient care gaps, and communicating those to the medical providers. To a certain degree, I do assist in this way and interact with patients to make sure they are getting the care they need and communicating with the providers. However, my job and responsibilities more involve assisting the providers in whatever ways possible to ensure that they really can get the patients the care they need, identify gaps, etc. In my experience, I certainly do get to interact with patients and get their care started to a certain degree. I triage patients frequently, which means I check them in, take their vitals, and bring them back into the clinic. I take notes on their vitals and information and give that to the providers. In a similar way, another one of my responsibilities includes helping perform lab tests on patient samples. I then print these lab results and bring them to the main provider. From this information, the providers are able to make assessments, treatment plans, and interact with and engage with their patients in a more personal way. Sometimes, my actions feel pretty limited because I can obtain tests and gather data on patients, but I do not have enough medical knowledge to interpret most of those results or understand them.. A large portion of my job as a Case Management Assistant is simply feeding information to providers so that they can then care for their patients. What I am growing to appreciate with more time I spend in the clinic, is that though my actions are more indirect, they are still necessary in the patient care process. The clinic I work at is somewhat understaffed. Another thing I have noticed is how much time and energy filling out paperwork takes in the office. The lack of staff and the amount of paperwork limits the amount of time providers get to spend with patients. The amount of paperwork it takes to order prescriptions, fill out medical notes, and deal with insurance issues takes up a significant portion of the providers’ time. Often, after seeing a patient they spend all their time before seeing their next patient filling out paperwork and still do not have time to complete it all. Thus, when things get busy, the medical assistants and the providers are sometimes scrambling to finish paperwork, see patients, and keep the clinic moving. There is certainly a challenge and a balance that must be achieved in order to provide quality, but efficient patient care. Thus, I have come to realize that direct patient care is not necessarily the most important part of my role.My skills are limited and I am far from having a complete understanding of medical terminology or diagnostic skills. Rather, my role is largely to do everything that I can to ensure that the people who do – the providers – are able to give patients the best care possible. By performing tests, taking vitals, and taking vitals in an orderly and efficient way, I can help to ensure that enable providers to spend as much time as possible face-to-face with patients and get them the care they truly need. 


One thought on “Learning how much I have to learn

  • July 10, 2019 at 11:40 am

    Really thoughtful reflection. I am sure, to some extent, it was disheartening to realize that the actual direct assistance you provide to patients would be more limited than you imagined. But it sounds like you’ve really discovered a way to seamlessly contribute to the work of the providers that enables them to more fully focus on patients, and that is not insignificant. Good job taking initiative and identifying the myriad ways you can step in and assist with critical (though perhaps unrecognized) functions that are essential to providers caring for patients.

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